Chinese amateur Ye Lei, just 13 years old, drives from the 14th tee during the second round of the World Ladies Championship at Mission Hills Haikou in Hainan, China
World No.1 Lydia Ko of New Zealand, Australian sensation Minjee Lee and China’s wonder girl Feng Simin are just three of the stars who have used the US$600,000 World Ladies Championship at Mission Hills Haikou as a launch pad to make the leap from amateur status to the professional ranks.
And this week Mission Hills’ signature Blackstone Course has welcomed the latest generation of amateur talent from across the Asia-Pacific region as they take their place in a field packed full of stars from both the Ladies European Tour and the China LPGA Tour.
China’s Ye Lei, Tian Qi, Cai Dan Ting, and Sui Xiang have been joined on the tropical Chinese island of Hainan by New Zealand’s Chantelle Cassidy as they make the most of the opportunity to get a taste of life at the very pinnacle of the game.
“It has just been a great experience, to see what life is like for the professionals and to be able to learn from them,” said 13-year-old Ye. “There are lots of stars here and it shows us what life would be like on the professional tour and how much you have to practice.
“The Blackstone Course is also really a challenge and a great course to learn from. It’s in wonderful condition and it has tested my game. I know whatever happens on the weekend I will go away a better golfer.”
For 22-year-old Cassidy, New Zealand’s top female amateur, the Mission Hills experience has been an eye-opener in terms of what she can expect when she turns pro – both on and off the course.
“It’s my first time here, the facilities are just amazing and it’s an honour to be here,” said Cassidy. “For us amateurs this is all about the experiences. We can watch Inbee Park and Suzann Pettersen and see how they go about their work. We can watch them practice and learn how they prepare.
“We also get to go to the spa here, which is just sensational. It has given us a glimpse into the life all us amateurs hope to one day live.”
Mission Hills Group Vice Chairman Mr Tenniel Chu said the presence of the amateurs – in a field that also includes some of the young stars of the professional circuit – reflected the strength of the women’s game globally.
“It all begins with the amateurs and over the four editions of the World Ladies Championship we have hosted we have been lucky enough to have seen some of the world’s best young players here at Mission Hills Haikou,” said Mr Chu.
“Part of Mission Hills’ commitment to the game of golf is to help amateur golf as much as we can. That’s why we have these young amateurs here this week and it is a privilege for us to be able to watch them as they develop.”
The World Ladies Championship is co-sponsored by global services company American Express; premium Italian lifestyle brand FILA; world-renowned bathroom brand TOTO; Dole, the world’s largest producer and marketer of fresh fruit and vegetables; premium beer brand Stella Artois; premium sparkling fruit juice Appletiser; sparkling natural mineral water San Pellegrino; and Jacobsen turf equipment.
Chantelle Cassidy from New Zealand