DE SMET EXCITED ABOUT 25 YEARS OF THE VOLVO CHINA OPEN

The 24th edition of the Volvo China Open may only be at the half-way stage but one of the key figures behind the scenes of China's national open championship is already planning ahead for a special 25th anniversary staging in 2019.

"The board members and I had a fun chat this week when we actually realised 'wow, it really is coming up to the 25th anniversary'," said Sven De Smet, Chairman of the Volvo China Open board of directors. "Next year will be a great occasion with 25 being a special number. We know we are in it for the long game, we have created a tradition and we are committed to golf, so we have lots of ideas on how to make it special in 2019.

"We'll be looking back but also looking forward. We are going to find a great way to tap into history, look at our former champions and make a great celebration out of those ingredients."

For the moment, however, De Smet is more concerned with the 2018 edition of the RMB 20 million tournament, currently being staged at Beijing Huairou Topwin Golf and Country Club. It is the latest chapter in Volvo's long and proud association with the game of golf in China and one that is this year tri-sanctioned by the China Golf Association, the European Tour and the Asian Tour.

"There has been a history of the event being tri-sanctioned and for us it makes sense commercially as while China is our pivotal market the Asia Pacific is the growth engine of the world, so it is important we tap into these new markets as well as other golfing markets such as India," he added.

"It's great to attract that audience, to support golf in this way and to show the Volvo China Open on more platforms in the area."

De Smet is also proud of how the Volvo China Open acts as a showcase for up-and-coming Chinese golfers. Two years ago, Haotong Li announced his arrival by winning the tournament in the face of tough opposition. Today he plays in the event having finished third in the Open Championship, played in the Masters, won another European Tour event and established himself as the first Chinese players to feature in the top 50 of the Official Golf World Ranking.

"What can you say about Haotong? It's just great to see a grass roots player grow into such a fantastic world player," said De Smet. "He is the perfect example of Chinese golf and the biggest following on the first day of the tournament this year was for Haotong. It is extra pressure, but he has grown into that – for him and players like Wu Ashun the Volvo China Open unlocked the doors to a bigger golfing world and it is great to see how they perform.

"But Volvo is not just about the Volvo China Open. When we say 'Volvo in Golf', we also include the juniors, the qualifying tournaments and our amateur events involving our customers around the world. For a company like Volvo, golf is a great way to spend time with your customers.

"For example, the Volvo China Open Pro-Am brings us all closer and it is very rewarding to see your customers and your partners playing with a star player, learning things, winning, losing, being lucky, being unlucky and then having a great dinner together."

For De Smet, the Volvo China Open week is a time he embraces with moments he clearly relishes.

"It's all there in the title," he smiles. "Volvo China Open. Volvo, we like. China, we like – it's our biggest market and the biggest car market in the world – and Open, we like. We may be a luxury car brand but that does not mean we are not inclusive – the idea that anyone who has talent and stamina can play the Volvo China Open is extremely rewarding.

"For example, this year it was great to see a young man who has been working with us as a volunteer and who was the runner up in our junior championship actually winning one of our qualifying events. This morning, I was on the tee to welcome him before he started play. If I was in his shoes I would have been very nervous, but he was totally cool about playing with his heroes.

"It's open. It's inclusive."

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