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    A unifying game, in any language

    By Gord Holder, Citizen Special June 14, 2010

    If you're confused by "go for the guoling," try "go for the fruit hill," which is one English translation of that Chinese word.

    For members of the Ottawa Chinese Golf Association, though, it makes perfect sense since guoling also equals "green," and it's a thought that might run through more and more heads as the recently formed organization tries to increase its drawing power from the approximately 32,000 Chinese in the National Capital Region.

    "Golf is kind of the glue we want to put a group of people together," Hugh Wei, one of a handful of lead organizers, said before the association's first tournament a week ago at Pine View. "Here we want people of different backgrounds to know each other.

    "Traditionally in China, golf is a rich people's game. They have the perspective that it is a rich people's game here, but we want to change their minds."
    Despite persistent rain, the Pine View event attracted 41 golfers. Though it was largely a recreational outing, featuring two prizes each for longest drives and tee shots closest to the flagstick, there was also a cut of 113 or better to determine the 24 players who will participate in two competitive rounds at the Meadows on July 24 and 25. Chuanxiang Ji recorded the low score, 80.

    To hear Wei and fellow IT worker Jeff Wang talk is to realize that they view golf not just as a sport, but also as a means to increase links within the Chinese community and between it and the community at large, a possible conversation topic for neighbours and co-workers.
    Thus, while this year's efforts have focused on increasing participation from within the Chinese community, long-term options include the idea of inviting the general public to golf in charity fundraising tournaments.

    "For hockey, most people just watch and talk (about it), but, for golf, you can play it, too," Wang said.

    The origins of the Ottawa Chinese Golf Association date back to last fall, which gave its founders several months before the first ball was teed up at Pine View to spread the word through Chinese community newspapers and the Internet, including the association's Chinese language website, xiaoyan.com/golf.

    Most of the 41 golfers at Pine View had previous golf experience, with at least a few having played in China as members or guests at local clubs, but others have contacted Wei and Wang to express both an interest in picking up the game and a lack of knowledge about how to start.

    The 45-year-old Wei, who has also headed up table tennis, badminton and tennis clubs, says he and Wang, 51, will talk to the novices, help them find golf equipment, even help them find out where practice ranges can be found and then meet them there.

    "We are not great golfers, but we want to get more people involved," Wei said.

    As for picking up the language of golf, Wei and Wang say that varies mostly according to how long a Chinese golfer has lived in this part of the world. More recent arrivals may prefer "guoling" and the Chinese equivalent of "No. 1 wood," but long-time residents are just as likely to use "green" and "driver."

    Asked about their goals for the association, Wang says he wants more Chinese people to realize that they can enjoy golf in the Ottawa area easily.

    Wei echoes that, but adds that he also wants the Chinese community to know that everybody can play golf and that it is a suitable activity for the Chinese, plus he wants Chinese and non-Chinese businesses in the region to realize that Chinese golfers represent a large and growing market.
    His third and final message is the community at large:

    "We want to be part of your games," he said. "We want to share your favourite sports. It's not just we play table tennis. We all want to play your games, and we want to speak the same language that you have."

    Send comments or suggestions to gholder@magma.ca and see Gord Holder's blog at ottawacitizen.com/golfblog
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    Great exposure. You guys did an excellent job.
     
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