Shanshan Feng received quite a reception on her return to China after winning a bronze medal in the Olympic golf competition at Rio 2016.
The 2015 Ladies European Tour Order of Merit winner flew home to find more than 100 people waiting for her at Guangzhou airport. In her Evian Championship preview press conference on Tuesday, which is her first tournament since, she spoke about joining 400 athletes representing Team China and her experience of meeting Chinese president Xi Jinping.
All of the medallists were organised in a line at the front of the group and took turns to shake the president’s hand. Feng said: “The others didn’t say anything, but when it came to my turn, I was like, “President, you’re so handsome!”
She added: “So he shaked my hand for the first time, and that’s it. And then he was shocked, and then he shaked my hand one more time. So yeah, I mean I was on TV actually a little more, a little longer. But I didn’t do it on purpose though.”
Feng celebrated her bronze medal by going out with friends for karaoke, but sang too much and hurt her throat. “I did bring it that day. I was singing and then the others were… nobody was really listening to me. They were all playing with the medal.”
She believes that the Olympic bronze will have much more of an impact on the popularity of golf in China than her 2012 Wegmans LPGA Championship Major triumph.
She said: “Back then, it was still a non-Olympic sport so only like the people that play golf actually knew what I did.
“Now it’s back in the Olympics, we are shown on the same channels as the other sports. And I mean all the Chinese people were actually watching us, because usually they can only watch us on like Golf Channel and some pre-paid channels. But this time, they’re seeing us, all the time seeing us playing, to see how great the Chinese golfers are.
“I think there will be more people that will actually start to join the sport. But it’s going to take a little time.
“It’s just the first time that a Chinese golfer is playing in the Olympics and we already have a bronze medal. So I think that in the future China will actually become one of the strongest countries in the world, and maybe we’ll get a gold medal some time and golf will become really popular.”
A GOOD COMBINATION
Feng says the par 71 track at the Evian Resort Golf Club is a ball strikers’ paradise and said it suits her game
very well. In her past three appearances in the major in 2013, 2014 and 2015, Feng has finished T11, T10 and 3rd respectively.
The Buick Championship winner believes a combination of recent rest and conﬁdence in her putting will be a
good thing this week. “I think this golf course is not really about hitting long,” said Feng. “It’s more about accuracy, and that’s what my strength is. My iron game is usually pretty accurate. So that’s why I’ve always done well here. And this year I mean I just played 18 holes today and yesterday. I think they really grew the grass, I mean the rough. So the rough is really, really long by the fairway and by the greens. So I mean this time is going to be like an accuracy challenge again. And I think it’s good for me.”