washburnzhouespn112207.jpgThat’s the headline of my story for ESPN.com about Omega China Tour golfer Zhou Xunshu, who I have had the pleasure of spending a considerable amount of time with over the past seven months or so. Here’s the first few paragraphs:

In 1984, when China ushered in its first modern-day golf course, Zhou Xunshu was 12 years old, living in an impoverished mountain village in the country’s midsection. At his school, light came from kerosene lamps, heat from a coal furnace in the middle of the classroom. At home, Zhou worked in the fields, cutting tall grass with a sickle. He didn’t know a sport called golf existed.

In 1994, when China first acknowledged “golf pro” as a profession, Zhou enrolled in a military-operated police school, trying to find direction in his life. He had spent the previous four years studying to pass the senior high school entrance exam — his parents had hoped he would be the first family member to do so — but schooling was never Zhou’s strong suit. Four years in a row he went through the motions, and four years in a row he failed. Now 22, Zhou had still never heard the word “golf.”

A year later, Zhou made a move that would alter the course of his life in the most unexpected way. He left police school early and hopped on a train to Guangzhou after hearing there were jobs to be had in the southern boomtown. Zhou landed a gig as a security guard … at something called a “golf course.” Things would never be the same.

Read the the rest at ESPN.com. Also, Zhou got married in Chongqing earlier this month. Bliss and I were there — I was asked to give a toast (in Chinese) — pics and video coming soon.

I also wrote a series of shorter profiles of eight more guys from the China Tour whose paths to pro golf were similarly wild and random. That story is also up on ESPN.com. Here’s a link.

All of these stories are related to my work-in-progress book project, Par for China.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Golf in China on ESPN.com
From 2007
Zhou makes remarkable leap into professional golf
How they got to the China Tour
Golf in China: All growing, all new, all raw
From 2005
Golf still an elitist pursuit in China
Golf in China grows bigger by the day
Chinese events bring interesting questions