Gary Player and Liang Wenchong

Gary Player and Liang Wenchong

With golf now an Olympic sport (starting in 2016) it seems everyone has grand predictions about the game’s future in China, especially golf legends (see the Jack Nicklaus doozy in my recent piece on ESPN.com). Now it is Gary Player‘s turn. I wouldn’t put money on Player’s prediction coming true — the Rio Games are less than seven years away — but banking on the production of elite Chinese golfers makes a lot more sense to me than counting on exponential growth in public courses in China.

This is Player’s quote (based on versions found here and here):

That was on everybody’s lips, particularly in China, about golf being in the Olympic Games. I’ve been known as a kook with my predictions throughout my career. I said everybody would be doing weight training in sports. They all said I was mad. Now, I’m going to make another prediction and say that by the time the 2016 Olympic Games come along, I think there will be three Chinese players — or even five — in the top 100 in the world. They’ve already got one, a man named Liang (Wenchong), who I’ve watched swing for a long time. Particularly in China, the Olympics mean so much to them and little towns where they really didn’t know about golf will now start to have golf courses. We are busy negotiating and bidding on at least nine golf course in China — we’ve already done nine — so they’re coming at us like a tsunami, not only economically, but in the sports field and golf, for a man to win a gold medal for his country I think is the ultimate.

Liang Wenchong is currently ranked 85th in the world. The next Chinese golfer, Zhang Lianwei, is 708th. Liang and Zhang will be 38 and 51 years old, respectively, in 2016.