European Ryder Cup heroes Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell and Open Champion Ernie Els stopped off in Hong Kong en route to the event in Mission Hills Dongguan and were given a special briefing by two local youngsters who represent the future of golf in China.
The briefing took place in the boardroom of HSBC's Hong Kong headquarters where 12-year-old Guo Wanyi and 15-year-old Bai Zhengkai from the HSBC China Junior Golf Program talked the five players through the key findings of a report on the future of golf commissioned by HSBC. The report, called Golf's 2020 Vision, is a detailed look at the future of golf over the next eight years.
The youngsters, who are both members of the China National Junior Golf Team, revealed that the next eight years will see:
- A major Asian presence in the World's Top 10 with the "next Tiger Woods" likely to come from the region
- Huge growth in players, tournaments and golf brands in China as the country's middle class reaches 98 million households
- New low cost urban golf courses springing up alongside traditional courses - the number of courses in China has tripled in less than a decade
- The players were also shown the HSBC trading floor and, in accordance with local custom, rubbed the paws of the famous bronze lions outside the Queen's Road headquarters to bring them luck ahead of the tournament.
World Number 3 Luke Donald said: "You only need to look at this event to see how golf is changing in Asia - it's incredible. In less than 10 years the whole golfing landscape has been transformed here, everything from the standard of play at every level, the facilities and the overall appetite for the game.
"This report clearly shows that Asia, and particularly China, has a huge role to play in the future of the sport and it was a great insight to meet some of the young players and hear it from them first hand. It's also significant that the tournament is taking place in Mission Hills this year as it gives southern China the opportunity to sample a world class golf tournament.
"It's been a great season for me but winning the HSBC Champions tournament would be the perfect way to finish the year on a high - when you see some of the talent coming through you realise you've got to grab every opportunity you get."
Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter agreed, saying: "The HSBC Champions is a great tournament and one that I have enjoyed coming to for many years. They always gather a world class field and really make sure the players are looked after well. I have enjoyed a great record in Asia over the last few years and hope to continue that trend with the momentum I am bringing into this year's event."
The players were joined by Peter Wong, Chief Executive HSBC Asia Pacific, The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited and Giles Morgan Global Head of Sponsorship & Events HSBC Holdings plc.
Mr Morgan said: "Hosting the WGC-HSBC Champions so close to Hong Kong at Mission Hills allows us to bring some of the world's best golfers to this dynamic city and meet some of the stars of the HSBC China Junior Golf Program.
"We're really proud to have nurtured HSBC Champions into a major event over seven years in Shanghai but we're equally proud that, through our sponsorship of the HSBC China Junior Golf Program, we have been able to create a sustainable long-term structure and framework upon which the future of Chinese golf is being built. You can see that today with Guo Wanyi and Bai Zhengkai who we hope will be stars of the future.
"The fact we're in Mission Hills this year is a great opportunity to bring the tournament to southern China and give golf fans in the region the chance to experience a leading tournament up close and personal."
The 2012 WGC-HSBC Champions is shaping up to be another great event with more leading players joining the five who were in Hong Kong today. They include defending tournament champion Martin Kaymer, double HSBC Champion and four-time major winner Phil Mickelson and his Ryder Cup playing partner Keegan Bradley, Masters champion Bubba Watson, in-form Jason Dufner, European Ryder Cup stars Justin Rose, Nicolas Colsaerts and Paul Lawrie, and 2010 Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen.
The tournament boasts the toughest qualification criteria of all the World Golf Championships, with the majority of the field qualifying only by winning a key tournament on their Tours or by being ranked in the top 25.