Six of the UBS Hong Kong Open’s biggest stars gathered in the stunning Chater Gardens in Hong Kong’s Central District to officially launch the 57th edition of Hong Kong’s longest-running sporting event.
Li Hao-tong, Scott Hend, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Patrick Reed and Graeme McDowell were joined by representatives from UBS, the Hong Kong Mega Events Fund and the Hong Kong Golf Association to get the tournament week underway and launch the UBS Hong Kong Open Urban Golf Challenge, which will take place in Chater Gardens on Friday night (October 23) at 18:30.
The Urban Golf Challenge will feature Johnson, Rose, McDowell, Reed, Victor Dubuisson, and Thongchai Jaidee and will see the players testing their golf skills in an urban environment, with as the Hong Kong Golf Club’s 18th green is recreated in the middle of the city.
But before that, the stars of the show are hoping to welcome a new generation of golf fans to the sport on Thursday (October 22) as the Hong Kong Golf Club opens its doors to the general public free of charge, giving everyone the opportunity to not only see some of the best players in the world in action, but to also participate in the sport in the newly enhanced Spectator Village at Fanling.
Li, currently China’s number one ranked player, came agonisingly close to winning a maiden European Tour title when losing out to Kiradech Aphibarnrat in a sudden-death Play-off for the Shenzen International in April. The 20 year old would love to be back in contention in Hong Kong.
He said: “It would be amazing to win somewhere quite close to home and after coming quite close at Shenzhen earlier this year that helped with my confidence! To win there would have let me play some of the biggest tournaments in the world with these guys here today and I will be trying my best again this week in Hong Kong.”
Defending Champion Hend prepared for the defence of his UBS Hong Kong Open title in some style by winning the Venetian Macau Open on the Asian Tour last week.
He said: “It’s always nice to have another victory in the bag which sets you up nicely for a good title defence. I’m playing well and I’m feeling good. You’ve got to be patient around this golf course and plan your shots well. I’ve played well and won on this golf course before so I am ready for the challenge and happy to be back on somewhere I have such great memories.”
American Ryder Cup stars Johnson and Reed, respectively ranked eight and 20 in the Official World Golf Ranking are making their debuts in the UBS Hong Kong Open.
Johnson said: “It’s a long way to travel for me but I like to come at least once a year. This year, I’ll be three times over here. So Presidents Cup and then playing here at the UBS Hong Kong Open, and then in two weeks I’ll be in Shanghai so getting a lot of play. I enjoy every time I come over here; I’ve really enjoyed it, and I’m excited about this week.”
Reed said: “I’m very excited to be back. Any time I come over here, I really enjoy it in Asia and I haven’t been back to Hong Kong ever. To come over here, see the area and see the new golf courses, I can’t wait. It’s one of the places that when I first landed, my wife and I kind of looked at each other and said, we’ve never seen so many buildings in our life. There’s nothing like New York or Houston, which are pretty large skylines back home. But out here, it just seems like the buildings just go on forever and ever. It’s going to be fun to not only play some good golf but hopefully go out and explore a little bit.”
Rose and McDowell, meanwhile, are no strangers to Hong Kong’s longest running professional sporting event. The US Open Champions of 2010 and 2013 both cherish Hong Kong as their favourite city in Asia and are hoping for a big week as they look to improve their positions on The Race to Dubai.
Rose said: “I think any time you sort of bring golf into sort of the city-type environment, it always creates a bit more of an energy. It’s fun. It’s nice to showcase golf in a different way, sort of doing the urban golf thing. I think it’s a cool addition to the tournament. Last time I was here I missed the cut so I had plenty of time to explore the place and it’s one of favourite cities in the world. I’m hoping to be around at the golf club a little longer this week though!”
McDowell said: “It’s a great tournament and brilliant to have UBS back on board this year. They’re one of the biggest banks in the world and combine that great sponsor with a great venue and a great city and you have a fantastic tournament.”
With the players set to take centre stage, the UBS Hong Kong Open’s key stakeholders are excited about the week ahead.
Ms Kathryn Shih, Head of UBS Wealth Management APAC, said “UBS is delighted to be returning as title sponsor of the UBS Hong Kong Open, particularly with the intensely competitive and exciting field assembled in 2015. The presence of some of the world’s premier golfers in Hong Kong promises to entertain local audiences and those watching on television around the world.
“We look forward to welcoming all of the players and the spectators to the tournament in the coming days and expect one of the most competitive tournaments in the distinguished history of the championship this week in Fanling.”
Ms Emily Mo, Secretary for Mega Events Fund Assessment Committee cum Assistant Commissioner for tourism commented, “The UBS Hong Kong Open is one of our oldest professional sporting events in Hong Kong and the Mega Events Fund is pleased to support this historic Championship again in 2015, with a view to further enriching the profile of this signature event by having the participation of a stellar field of many talented golfers. With the Mega Events Fund’s funding support, we are glad to have the organizer to further step up its publicity effort and carry out extensive community programme to promote Hong Kong as a prime tourist destination as well as engage the public in taking part in this amazing sports. There are other events such as the Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival to be held in Central Harbourfront later this week and we sincerely encourage all the fans and players come and join the festival after watching the day-time tournament to enjoy and relax.”
Mark Chan, President of the Hong Kong Golf Association, said: “The week of the UBS Hong Kong Open is naturally one of the most anticipated weeks of the year for of all us at the Hong Kong Golf Association and we are very much looking forward to another memorable edition of this very special tournament. With UBS back on board as the title sponsor, as well as the support of the Mega Event Fund, we will see one of the most exciting fields ever assembled at the Hong Kong Golf Club this week, and we hope that record numbers of spectators will visit Fanling to create that unique atmosphere which only the UBS Hong Kong Open can generate.”