China’s golfing pioneer, Zhang Lianwei, will be a star attraction at next week’s Clearwater Bay Open after accepting a sponsor’s invitation.
Zhang, 51, will be the most recognisable face in the field for the inaugural HK$1.4 million tournament from November 3-6, the first Ping An Bank China Tour-PGA Tour China Series event held outside mainland China.
“I’m very interested to return to Clearwater Bay Golf Country Club as I’ve played there several times and it’s truly one of most spectacular courses.
“I’m still playing pretty well and on my day I can still shoot some low rounds, so it will be good for me to test myself against all these young, up-and-coming players from around the world.
“I must thank Ping An Bank for inviting me to play,” said Zhang, who hit the very first tee-shot on the inaugural PGA Tour China Series in 2014 at the Mission Hills Haikou Open.
Veteran Zhang this month showed he could still compete with the region’s finest by making the cut in the Asian Tour’s Venetian Macao Open.
This year he became the first ever Chinese champion on the European Senior Tour, winning in Wales in June.
Zhang played at Clearwater Bay in the Asian Tour’s season-ending Omega PGA Championship in the late 1990s and the 2002 Star Alliance Open when he was grouped with Seve Ballesteros.
After becoming the first player to win the China Amateur Open three times, he set a series of milestones in his pro career including becoming the first Chinese to win a European Tour title – beating Ernie Els in a play-off to win the 2003 Caltex Masters in Singapore – and compete in a major championship, the 2004 Masters.
He has won five Asian Tour titles including back-to-back Macao Opens in 2001 and 2002 – beating Nick Price in a play-off to win the latter – and further pro events in Canada, Malaysia, Thailand and China.
Order of Merit leader Dou Zecheng, a four-time winner this year, second-placed Charlie Saxon of the US and Hong Kong No. 1 Jason Hak Shun-yat are also among the 120-player field.
Veteran Asian Tour player Scott Barr of Australia has also been extended an invitation as the winner of the HKPGA Championship.
Alex Kang of the US, Kim Tae-woo of South Korea – both winners this year – and Chinese duo Zhang Xinjun and Chen Zihao are in the top seven on the order of merit and will also compete. Zhang Xinjun, 29, finished second and third in the money list in 2014 and 2015.
Josh Geary, New Zealand’s fifth-ranked player, is another player to watch after winning three times in 2015 and finishing second in the order of merit to earn status on the Web.com Tour, where the 31-year-old has played most of his golf this year.
Canadians Justin Shin and Eugene Wong, two-time winner David McKenzie of Australia, Chao Haimeng and He Zeyu of China, and Sam Chien of the US are among former tour champions headed for Clearwater Bay.
Rory Hie, the first Indonesian to earn playing rights on the Asian Tour, also features in a provisional entry list that comprises 13 nationalities from the Americas, Europe, Asia and Oceania.