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Li makes major Chinese history

LIANG Wenchong will not be the only Chinese taking part in this week's British Open in Scotland. Taylor Li Jinliang, the chief referee on the China Tour, will also be part of the action at Turnberry when he becomes the first mainland Chinese to officiate at one of golf's four majors.

"When I received the invitation letter from The R&A (The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews), I felt great because this was the first time a Chinese referee had received an invitation to officiate at a major.

It's my honor to be that person and I believe this will prove a milestone in Chinese golf history," said the Beijing-based 37-year-old Li.

"I feel more excited than nervous, as I've had some experience in big tournaments such as the HSBC Champions and the Omega Mission Hills World Cup," said Li, who has officiated in many Asian Tour and European Tour events.

Li is aware of the pressure he will be under at Turnberry.

"There will be a little bit of extra pressure at The Open, especially if there are TV cameras over my head and lots of spectators around, so I'll need to stay clear-headed," says Li, an associate professor at Beijing Sport University, where he received a Master's degree in 1996 and a Doctor's in 2005.

"However, the main challenge for any referee is understanding the logic behind the rules and making a decision accordingly. This is especially significant when you have a situation that's not included in the rules book or decision book."

The R&A sent Li's invitation to the China Golf Association in March, just as the rules official was about to embark on his fourth season as chief referee on the China Tour.

Li said that over 1,000 referees, including 12 at international level, have been trained since The R&A and the CGA cooperated on a program in 2007 to develop more Chinese referees.

Li himself is very familiar with both The R&A and Scotland. In 2002, he embarked on a year-long Golf Facility Management course at Elmwood College in Cupar, just 14km west of St Andrews.

In March 2005, he passed the Rules School held by The R&A in Beijing and in February 2006 passed The R&A's Referees School in St Andrews itself.

Li hopes his appearance at Turnberry will pave the way for China's next generation of referees.

"I believe there will be more Chinese rules officials at the British Open and other Majors in the future. The CGA is making a lot effort to promote the level of Chinese referees and providing more and more opportunities for them," he said.


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