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2 April 2004

OMEGA Ambassador Zhang Lian Wei feted before departing to US Masters

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Leading international watchmaker OMEGA hosted a special farewell press conference for one of its top sporting ambassadors, No. 1 ranked Chinese golfer Zhang Lian Wei, who will become the first Chinese player to play in a golf Major in April. Zhang was a special invitation for the US PGA 2004 Masters Tournament, to be played from April 5 to 11, 2004. The Masters is one of the golfing world's most prestigious competitions. The OMEGA farewell press conference was held at the Shenzhen Golf Club before Zhang's departure for the American state of Georgia, the home of the Augusta National Golf Club course where the Masters Tournament is played.

Elinda Cheng, Marketing Director of OMEGA, was in attendance along with Mr Cui Zhi Qiang, Secretary of the China Golf Association and Yu Xiao Ping, Deputy General Manager of the Shenzhen Golf Club. Another renowned OMEGA ambassador, the actor Simon Yam, winner of the Best Actor award at the Golden Bauhinia Awards last Sunday, was also on hand to commemorate this unique moment in Chinese sport.


Zhang's special invitation to compete at the 2004 Masters is a confirmation of more than just his many career milestones that include becoming the first Chinese player to win on the European Tour after a dramatic one-stroke victory over Ernie Els at the Caltex Masters presented by Carlsberg Singapore in 2003, but of the perfect-under-pressure performance which makes him the ideal OMEGA ambassador. Zhang's invitation to the Masters confirms what Asian golf fans already know, as he has won five times in Asia including back-to-back titles at the Macau Open in 2001 and 2002 and the Volvo China Open in 2003.


Elinda Cheng, Marketing Director for OMEGA expressed the watchmaker's best wishes for Zhang's continued success saying, "Zhang Lian Wei has been an OMEGA ambassador for the past 6 years. His prodigious talent on the golf course is evident, but it was his determination as a self-taught golfer to successfully reach the top that made him the embodiment of the OMEGA spirit in China. We wish him great luck in what we are confident will be his first of many Major Tournaments around the world."


Mr Cui Zhi Qiang, Secretary of the China Golf Association, commented on the importance of Zhang's invitation and his groundbreaking role in expanding the game in China, saying, "On behalf of the entire China Golf Association and all golf fans in China, I would like to congratulate Zhang on his invitation to the Masters. We are confident that he will impress the international audiences with his skill at the Masters and continue to present a strong image of the quality of golf in China around the world. Zhang's continued success has not only helped draw thousands of new participants to golf in China, but is also opening the eyes of the world to the many talented golfers we already have. We wish Zhang Lian Wei the best of luck in his hunt for the Green Jacket."


Zhang himself was honoured at the invitation, saying "I am proud to be the first Chinese player to compete in the Masters. I would like to thank Augusta National, the US PGA Tour, the China Golf Association and the Asian Tour for their support."


Mr Yu Xiao Ping, Deputy General Manager of the Shenzhen Golf Club, the site of one of Zhang's earliest victories at the China Amateur Open in 1989, said that "Zhang Lian Wei is an inspiration for the many young golfers in China who are attracted to the game. His performance in qualifying for an invitation will help spur new interest in Chinese golf around the nation. We wish him the best of success at the Masters in 2004."


At the press conference, another celebrated OMEGA ambassador, Simon Yam, the recipient of Hong Kong's Golden Bauhinia Award for his acting in March, presented Zhang with an OMEGA Double Eagle watch. Zhang's presence at the Masters will provide another interesting tie-in for OMEGA when he plays the 15th hole at Augusta. The 15th hole is the site of the famed three-under-par score by Gene Sarazen in the second ever Masters Tournament in 1935, the first Double Eagle ever recorded in a Major. Sarazen's effort in that year helped him draw even with Craig Wood, and forced a mammoth 36-hole playoff, from which Sarazen finally emerged as the victor. Sarazen's performance and his record score which made news around the world, inspired OMEGA's own masters, its talented watch makers, to create a special edition of its famed Constellation line, the Constellation Double Eagle in 2003.


In the USA, Zhang will have his work cut out for him as he prepares to compete alongside 90 of the world's best golfers in this historic international golf event. With the winner of the US Masters allowed to choose the meal for the famous Champions Dinner held in the Augusta Masters Club the following year, next year's banquet could have a decidedly Chinese flavour.

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