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OMEGA Ambassador
Greg NormanOMEGA

Test run for the OMEGA Mission Hills World CupCelebrities joined pros at Mission Hills Star trophy

Top professional golfers have teamed up with celebrities from the world of sport, cinema and the arts to play in the inaugural Mission Hills Star Trophy at Haikou, Hainan, China from 28-31 October 2010. Swimming legend Michael Phelps came face to face with a Great White Shark on his recent return to China. The 14-time Olympic gold medal winner met golfing great Greg Norman at the Mission Hills Star Trophy in Haikou, Hainan.

The duo, both OMEGA Ambassadors, exchanged notes on the Royal & Ancient game with Phelps admitting: “I left a few divots out there!” Two-time British Open champion Norman – nicknamed the Great White Shark for his Australian origins, blond hair and fearless attacking game – was one of the driving forces behind the Mission Hills Star Trophy, a pro-celebrity tournament featuring top golfers and stars from the world of sport, cinema and the arts.

American icon Phelps, returning to the country where he won a record eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, confirmed his golf game needed some work. “My handicap isn’t too good, so we won’t talk about that!” he laughed. “This week is about getting out there, meeting people and having some fun. Golf is a sport that, hopefully, I’m going to enjoy a lot more in the future. It’s a real thrill to be back here in China – it brings back so many great memories.”

The Mission Hills Star Trophy

The Mission Hills Star Trophy, held from 28-31 October, also featured two other OMEGA Ambassadors – pioneering Chinese golfer Zhang Lianwei and awarding winning Hong Kong actor Simon Yam, who paired up in the 36-hole team challenge that closed out the tournament. Zhang, the first golfer from mainland China to win a European Tour event, said tournaments like the Star Trophy – for which OMEGA was the Official Timekeeper – would help the golf boom in his country. “I’m expecting more good young golfers to come through because the China Golf Association is investing a lot in its junior programmes,” he said. “Last year we saw YE Yang become the first Asian to win a Major tournament. Asian golf is very strong now and I’m confident more Chinese players will be competing with the top Asian golfers soon.”

Earlier in the week Yam – who is also a keen photographer – played alongside glamorous LPGA Tour professional Belen Mozo from Spain and he reveled he would be sending her a book of his photographs. “She scored a hole-in-one a few days ago in Sanya and they didn’t give her anything!” he laughed. “So I’m sending her two copies of my book, one for her and one for her grandfather. This is one of the reasons OMEGA are like a family to me – they bring me to all these nice places and allow me to meet my golf idols!”

Dr Ken Chu, Executive Vice Chairman of Mission Hills Group, said the Star Trophy was reaching out to new fans. “By having celebrities join professionals in this tournament, it has opened up a new audience for us,” he said. “There are many non-golf fans coming to this event. Our goal is to continue to promote the game and put the Missions Hills brand at the forefront of world golf.”

Former women’s world No.1 Lorena Ochoa of Mexico pocketed the US$1.28 million winner-takes-all individual prize with a two-shot triumph in the 36-hole pro-celebrity event. LPGA Tour star Candie Kung and Hong Kong comedy actor Eric Tsang captured US$100,000 for winning the team competition.

Other top golfers taking part included Sir Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie, Ryuji Imada and Danny Lee, together with leading female players Annika Sorenstam and Pak Se Ri. Celebrities teeing it up included screen stars Hugh Grant, Christian Slater, Matthew McConaughey and Catherine Zeta-Jones and football great Ruud Gullit. China was well represented in the tournament by film directors Feng Xiaogang and He Ping, actors Wang Zhiwen and Chen Daoming, and pop singer Sun Nan. Norman said the tournament’s diverse line-up highlighted the appeal of golf. “It’s an honour to be here among all these senior government officials, sports stars, actors, actresses and celebrities,” he said. “It shows the game of golf is unique in the way it can bring together people from so many different backgrounds.”

The tournament was held at Mission Hills Haikou on the picturesque tropical island of Hainan. The Star Trophy was seen as a test run for the OMEGA Mission Hills World Cup, which will be held at Mission Hills Haikou next year, having previously been staged at Mission Hills in Dongguan, China.