Zhang Huilin became the fifth domestic winner of the Volvo China Open at Genzon Golf Club in Shenzhen, Guangdong province on Sunday. [Photo/Xinhua]

After overcoming sizable challenges to stage this year’s Volvo China Open over the weekend, organizers are looking forward to a bright future for the country’s longest continuously held professional golf competition.

On Sunday, Zhang Huilin became the fifth homegrown winner in the tournament’s 26-year history with an emphatic nine-shot victory margin at Genzon Golf Club in Shenzhen, Guangdong province.

But just as impressive was the smooth running of the event amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During the past 26 years the Volvo China Open has never been suspended, including 2003 when the world was affected by SARS,” said Wang Xinggui, chairman of tournament promoter MiTime Group.

“From the very beginning we insisted that this year’s event had to be held, but because of the pandemic it was difficult for foreign players to participate and so the field was comprised totally of Chinese players. However, the competition was very exciting and we had a very worthy winner.”

Tournament sponsor Volvo echoed those sentiments and reaffirmed the Swedish auto giant’s commitment to the event.

“From the very first year to the present day, the continuous holding of the Volvo China Open has shown to the outside world that Volvo has taken root in Chinese golf and is sticking to its commitment to build China’s highest-level golf competition platform,” said Zhao Qin, chairman of the Volvo China Open board and vice-president of corporate communications for Volvo Car Asia-Pacific.

“We hope that all future Volvo China Open events will help to cultivate more professional Chinese players to go out into the wider golfing world and represent our country.

Chinese pros such as Dou Zecheng, Liu Yanwei and others, as well as players who have been active in the Volvo China Junior Match Play Championships, allow us to realize that Volvo’s efforts in the field of golf over the past 26 years have been very worthwhile.”

Both Dou-a former PGA Tour member-and Liu tried in vain to catch Zhang over the weekend.

The joint leader after the second round with teenager Ding Wenyi, Zhang powered away from the chasing pack in the third round with a blistering 9-under-par 63.

On Sunday, it was merely a question of how many strokes Zhang would win by, with the 31-year-old from Hunan province carding a final-round 71 for a 19-under total, nine shots ahead of Beijing-based Ding.

“I’m obviously very excited to win the national open title, but I also broke my own tournament scoring record by three shots this week,” said Zhang.

“I was less cautious on the opening few holes than I was during the first three rounds, so I concentrated harder on the holes that followed.”

Zhang claimed the 350,000 yuan winner’s check together with a 100,000 yuan from the Zhang Lianwei Sports Development Fund and a further 200,000 yuan donated by Genzon Golf Club, with whom he signed as a touring pro earlier this year.

Ding’s 10-under total was the best score by an amateur in the history of the event. However, the 16-year-old could not claim the 203,000 yuan runner-up check because of his amateur status.

Liu, therefore, picked up the second-place prize money, after finishing third on 7-under, two clear of Guan Tianlang and Su Dong, and three ahead of Dou.

Dou was disappointed by his week’s work but admitted he had not put in the hours on the fairways and greens that he normally would before an event-mostly because the pandemic has prevented him from practicing effectively.

Kong Weidong, the general manager of Genzon Golf Club, said the successful staging of the event over the weekend provided yet another example of Shenzhen’s growing global profile.

“The city of Shenzhen is known to gather creative and pioneering entrepreneurs, and the sport of golf has a wide range of fans and appeals to many like-minded people,” said Kong.

“The Genzon Group signed a contract with the event organizing committee to continue to host the Volvo China Open, planning to use Shenzhen as a pioneer city from a humanistic and urban perspective, and to show the multiple dimensions of the sport and spirit of the game.

“The return of this event to Genzon Golf Club is very inspiring for the players, international media, golf enthusiasts, golf practitioners and the entire golfing industry.”