Badminton bash for Koepka & Co

Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Five of the world’s leading golfers traded their clubs for badminton racquets ahead of this week’s WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai.

Title partner HSBC brought together new World No 1 Brooks Koepka, the man he replaced, Dustin Johnson, defending champion Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy and Francesco Molinari for a USA versus Europe badminton match yesterday, aimed at helping grow the game of golf in China.

The stars swatted it out on a specially constructed court outside the Chamber of Commerce Shanghai. The event also featured a coaching session by former badminton world champion Wang Lin, who put the golf professionals through their paces. HSBC is also partner of the Badminton World Federation.

Peter Wong, deputy chairman and chief executive of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, said: “We are incredibly proud of our partnership with the World Golf Championship, and how the WGC-HSBC Champions has grown since 2009 to become ‘Asia’s Major’. Golf in Asia is thriving, with talented players breaking onto out on the world stage and more fans following the sport. Bringing the best players in the world to Shanghai has been a huge part of this development. As we continue to push the growth agenda for Chinese golf, what better way to help Chinese fans connect with some of the best players in the world than to have them try their hands at badminton, a hugely popular sport in China.”

Koepka, who won this year’s US Open and PGA Championship titles to take his Major tally to three, said: “It was great fun to swap the golf club for the badminton racquet and have a hit at an incredible location in front of the Chamber of Commerce Shanghai. It started off as a bit of fun, but when we got going there was definitely some friendly competition between the two sides.”

Johnson noted: “I have played at the WGC-HSBC Champions for several years now, and every year the tournament seems to get better. The local fans are more engaged, more knowledgeable and clearly more into the game of golf. With the help of the Chamber of Commerce Shanghai, great events such as this will allow us continue to keep growing the sport in this part of the world.”

Rose, who held the World No 1 spot briefly in September, said: “It was an incredible experience to lift the Old Tom Morris Cup in Shanghai last year and I can’t wait to tee off again to defend the trophy. The amazing field that descends on Shanghai each October certainly justifies the tournament’s unofficial title as Asia’s Major and I’m looking forward to what will be a really challenging few days.”

Four-time Major winner McIlroy said: “It is really important for the future of golf that the sport continues to reach out to new markets and new fans all over the world. Events like this one, and the work being done generally by HSBC in Asian golf, do a tremendous job at helping secure the long-term prosperity of golf, so I was happy to be a part of today’s event.”

Reigning Open champion Molinari noted: “It was great to once again line-up alongside some of my European teammates, this time on a badminton court rather than a golf course. What took place at Le Golf National was undoubtedly one of the highlights of my professional life.”

Competing for an increased prize fund of US $10 million, the star-studded field will be the strongest gathered in Asia this year. Organisers have also planned significant enhancements to every aspect of the spectator experience for this year’s event including adding virtual reality technology to the new Lakeside area boasting a spectator viewing platform with premium sightlines of the 2nd and 9th greens.

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