By Ward Clayton
Shanshan Feng arrived in Canada this week for the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic with great expectations. Not only her own, but with increased awareness in her home country of China. She has heard about it from a distance.
"Because there was only one week off, I didn't have enough time to go home, go back to China, so I went home to Orlando just to rest a little bit," Feng told reporters this week in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. "I was very excited last week but I know that I'm having a tournament this week so I was trying to adjust my mentality. Even though I won last week, I was trying to tell myself to be the same as normal, just be patient."
The Wegmans LPGA Championship victory made Feng the most successful Chinese golfer, male or female. Two Chinese men have won on the European Tour - Zhang Lian-wei and Liang Wen-Chong. Liang has played in many major championships. China's Andy Zhang, at age 14, became the youngest competitor in the men's U.S. Open last week.
Some are comparing the impact of her victory to that of tennis star Li Na after she won the 2011 French Open to become China's first grand slam singles champion.
"Hopefully it's going to help golf in China because I want to be Li Na for golf in China," the 22-year-old said.
"Golf has never been a major sport in China because it's never been an Olympic sport," Gary Gilchrist, Feng's American-based coach, told golfchannel.com. "China sports are all about the Olympics, so a lot more people are excited about golf now."
The reaction of Feng's peers reflects the continuing globalization of the game.
"We play in so many different countries all over the world, and it's cool to me," Stacy Lewis said. "I think it's cool for us to meet players from all over the world, see the different cultures and how we all interact. It's different, but it's a lot of fun for us."
Feng will have increased focus with her pairing in the first two rounds of this week's event, going out with long-hitting Karin Sjodin and Michelle Wie at Grey Silo Golf Course.