Rory McIlroy knows the importance of inspiring the next generation of players. He himself looked up to Tiger Woods as a young boy.
Last week in Shanghai, McIlroy made a new friend and undoubtedly a lifelong fan at the WGC-HSBC Champions, which he won in a playoff.
His name is Tong Yang. The 15-year-old is part of the tournament’s junior golf program. McIlroy says he’s been going back to China for 10 years, and when HSBC got involved with the junior program, it had about 400 golfers. Now that number is up to 100,000 kids, thanks to HSBC’s support. “That just shows you how much it’s growing in that country.”
In an interview with Brad Faxon, McIlroy said Monday he played the last hole of a pro-am with Yang last Wednesday after meeting him the previous day at a junior clinic.
“He’s a helluva player,” McIlroy said on Faxon’s SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio show, Just the Fax. “He hit two great shots just to the front left of the 18th green there. It was really cool.” (You can see for yourself in the video below.)
— HSBC Sport (@HSBC_Sport) October 31, 2019
Yang wasn’t supposed to stay for the weekend because he had to prepare for a tournament of his own. But somehow Yang managed to stay to see his hero take the podium after an 18th PGA Tour win.
“It was nice to see him there on Sunday and obviously it was a nice moment for me going up to get the trophy,” McIlroy said.
McIlroy also gave props to Xander Schauffele, whom he beat on the first playoff hole with a birdie on the par-5 18th at Sheshan International.
McIlroy and Schauffele played all 73 holes together for the HSBC Champions, and they played the first two rounds together at the Zozo in Japan the previous week.
“He’s a great player, a great competitor. He’s a great guy,” McIlroy told Faxon. “After spending a good bit of time with him in Asia, he’s one of the best guys on Tour for sure. And we really enjoyed competing against each other.
“He had flu-like symptoms, he was weak. He was probably having to hit one more club with his irons. We’re sort of similar in length; I might be just a bit longer than him. But he was giving me 15 or 20 last week just because he wasn’t at full strength. For him to feel like that and still get himself in a playoff, I thought was incredible.”