LI HAOTONG TAKES THE VOLVO ROAD TO NATIONAL GLORY

China’s Li Haotong has spent the past 12 months entirely comfortable in the knowledge that he is the Volvo China Open champion. Next week Li will return to Topwin Golf and Country Club in Beijing to attempt to become the first local player to defend this much-coveted title.

Li became the fourth mainland Chinese player to win his national Open and followed Cheng Jun’s historic 1997 victory in Beijing, the Shanghai win of Zhang Lianwei in 2003, and Wu Ashun’s breakthrough victory at Tomson Golf Club in Shanghai in 2015.

Few would question Li’s resolve and his abundance of skills to be able to retain his Volvo China Open title. The past 12 months has seen him travel the world to compete in high-level international events, including the Rio Olympics last October.

In early November Li collected his biggest pay cheque to date – US$557,077, when he finished second to Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen in Turkey. At the end of the same month Li and Wu teamed up to represent China in the World Cup of Golf in Melbourne, and finished in joint second place behind Olesen and Soren Kjeldsen.

Whether Li would have enjoyed the success he has without his Volvo China Open win is open to debate, but Volvo-sponsored events have presented the talented young man from Hunan province with an ideal platform to improve his game.

Li was just two shots behind Felipe Aguilar of Chile going into the final round of last year’s Volvo China Open, and he played inspired golf to record a superb eight-under-par 64 to win by three shots.

A large gallery gravitated towards Li’s group as his name rose higher and higher on the leaderboards, and when he reached the par-five 18th the fairway was totally lined with fans calling their support for a second consecutive home victory.

Li answered all of the calls to make history by becoming the youngest winner of this prestigious event – his national Open.

Li said at the media interview immediately after his win that he has enjoyed a long and rewarding association with Volvo, having won the Volvo China Junior Championship in 2010 and now he is the Volvo China Open Champion.

As a young golf pro I was so glad to win the Volvo China Open,” Li said. “The victory meant a lot because it was a huge personal breakthrough for me.

“This year is Volvo’s 90th anniversary and the 30th anniversary of Volvo in Golf, so I'm honored to be a part of this history. Volvo's junior match play event; the qualifiers and of course the Volvo China Open have all been part of my maturity as a professional.

“I have to thank Volvo for their 23 years of support of golf in China, and I look forward to their continued support. I hope more young golfers will play in Volvo's junior events and  be inspired to  play in the Volvo China Open!”

The inaugural Volvo China Open teed off in April 1995, and just four months later Li was born. The Volvo China Junior Championship was introduced in 2005 in the same year that Li, then 10, was introduced to golf by his father.     

In 2010, and now aged 15, Li won the Volvo China Junior Championship in the Boy’s Group A division (15 to 17 year olds) and automatically qualified for a place in the 2011 Volvo China Open.

Li was the youngest player in the field in 2011 at age 15, and shot a two-over-par 146 (76, 70) in the first two rounds at Luxehills Golf Club in Chengdu to miss the cut.

In 2012, at age 16, Li turned pro. His first event as a pro was the Volvo China Open at Binhai Lake Golf Club in Tianjin, where he posted a one over par score of 145 (71,74) to again miss the cut.

In 2013 Li ensured participation for the third time by finishing third in the Qualifying event at Lion Lake Country Club in Guangdong province. Once again held again at Binhai Lake Golf Club, Li scored a seven-over-par 151 (76,75) to again miss the cut in the Open.

The Volvo China Open moved to Genzon Golf Club in 2014 where Li made the cut for the very first time. After three rounds he was tied in eighth place but a final round of 78 saw him drop back into a tie for 50th with a four round score of one-under-par 287 (73, 69, 67, 78), earning him RMB 84,000

The 2015 Volvo China Open was held at Tomson Golf Club in Shanghai and after two rounds Li was in fourth place just three shots behind the leader. After three rounds Li shared the lead with compatriot Wu, David Howell and Alexander Levy, the defending champion.

A disappointing final round of two-over-par 74 saw him slip back to finish in sixth place, but this was by far his best performance in the event to date and earned him a handsome RMB 700,000.

Li’s 2016 win produced a four-round score of 22-under-par 266 (69, 67, 66, 64) and earned the 20-year-old a life-changing RMB 3,333,000.

He is the youngest champion in the tournament’s history and is only the second Chinese player to win since the event joined the European Tour in 2004. Li has so far earned RMB 14 million in earnings and is rightly recognised as China’s leading male golfer. 

In the 22-year history of the Volvo China Open, no one has successfully defended the title, but who would bet against the rising Chinese star to become the first and to add to his glowing record in Volvo events?

(2017-04-17)

The 23rd staging of the Volvo China Open takes place from April 27th-30th at Topwin Golf and Country Club, Beijing. Volvo was the first western brand to engage with golf in China in 1995, and this will be Volvo's 86th tournament on the European Tour. The prize fund is RMB 20 million. The tournament is organized by the China Golf Association with Volvo Car Event Management as co-organizer and promoter, and is co-sanctioned by the European Tour and OneAsia.

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