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New Zealand Open: Li Haotong feels better prepared in 2014

MEDIA RELEASE from New Zealand Open
Sunday February 21, 2014

New Zealand Open: Li Haotong feels better prepared in 2014

China’s Li Haotong feels he’s in much better shape to contend at this year’s New Zealand Open Championship in Queenstown.  

The 23-year-old, who finished in a share of fifth place in the NZ PGA Championship at The Hills in 2013, rued a poor opening round 74 before he carded rounds of 65, 66 and 69 to finish on a 14-under par total and only five shots back from the playoff.

Hao Tong was pretty happy with his first appearance in New Zealand and is looking forward to returning for the $900,000 tournament which is being staged at The Hills and Millbrook from February 27 to March 2.

“It’s a great memory last year,” he said through a translator. 

“I have gained quite a lot experience on this course last year and I wish that can make my first round this year a bit easier. I will try to do my best and hopefully this time it will be even better.”

Haotong is one of four Chinese players in the field alongside Wen-Yi Huang, Xin Jun Zhang and Ming-Hao Wang in the PGA Tour of Australasia event that has a partnership with the Japan Golf Tour.

He joined the professional ranks in 2011 after an amateur career that saw him signaled out as one of China’s most promising golfers.

He won nine gold medals and six silver medals in the Asian Games in various cities in China to forge an impressive amateur record.

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“I enjoyed my amateur career and I thought that I should compete in the next level to make myself stronger mentally through the tough competition in pro tournaments.

“The transition [to pro golf] is quite smooth for me, and I really enjoy to compete in the pro’s world. I need to gain more experience on and off the course, yet I have plenty of years.”

The Nike-sponsored Haotong showed plenty of promise when he played his first pro event – the Nanshan Masters in China – and finished in a share of 21st place. 

“That was a good start, but one tournament does not necessarily mean that I am good enough.  I tried to build my confidence through it and it turns quite well in following two years.”

This year he wants to breakthrough on OneAsia Tour and finish inside Top 15 on the Order of Merit. 

He is looking forward to a big year in 2014 and that begins next week in Queenstown. He was blown away by the jewel in New Zealand’s tourism crown on his first visit in 2013.

“I really enjoy the natural scenery in NZ, especially those around the golf course. That lake is spectacular, and one of my friends even jumped into it last year.

“I love this course to be honest. You cannot see lots of course like this in China so I enjoyed playing it all the time. I wish this can give me some luck and help me challenging the title.”
Haotong might not need too much luck. He made 20 birdies in all last year at The Hills over four rounds and if he can cut back on his mistakes he is likely to contend again.

“That is what I am trying to do in recent months, my training is focused on short-game and saving ability. I think the result will be satisfying if I can reduce my mistakes to the minimum.”

Haotong is excited about his prospects and also the prospects of his country to become a global power in the game of golf.

“China will be eventually a real force in five years or a bit longer maybe. We have two leaders almost reaching Top 100 [Liang Wen Chong, 117 and Wu Ashun 140) and a couple of players like me who start to show their ability in international tournaments. Also we have so many other talented teenagers waiting to turn pro. So yes I believe China golf is rising to become a force to be reckoned with.”


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