SUN CITY, South Africa (AP) — The sovereignty dispute between China and Taiwan has hit the Women’s World Cup of Golf, with Taiwan’s flag banned from the event.
Taiwan’s Amy Hung and Yun-Jye Wei are golfers without a flag as they represent their country at the Gary Player Country Club.
It is the first time the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan have played in the event together, and China’s management insisted the Taiwan flag not be used in the opening ceremony last Wednesday, or flown anywhere on the golf course.
In addition, the Taiwan flag has been removed the bibs of the players’ caddies, and it not used on any of the scoreboards at the event or on the tournament web site.
China regards Taiwan is a province of the mainland while Taiwan has been making increasing moves toward independence.
“We really hadn’t thought of this,” said Women’s World Cup of Golf managing director Alison Spratley.
“Of course, the difficulties are compounded because the South African government has ties with China and does not diplomatically recognize Taiwan, and that’s a problem in a tournament whose patron is South Africa’s vice president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka,” she added.
Spratley met the Taiwan team and discussed the issue with them. “Clearly, they were upset, but they insisted throughout that all they wanted to do was play golf,” she said.
China’s management said Taiwan could play under the Olympic flag used by its athletes, but the golfers turned down that chance, especially as golf is not an Olympic sport.
Instead, they insisted they be allowed to be identified as from Taiwan – not Chinese Taipei as requested by the Chinese management.
“The compromise was accepted, and the Taiwanese caddies both have the word ‘Taiwan’ on their bibs, but no flags,” said Spratley. “Also, the players were allowed to leave the Taiwan flags on their golf bags unconcealed,” she said.
Hung and Wei let their scores on the course do their talking for them: After the second of three rounds, they were just two shots off the lead with a total of 9-under-par 135. The lead was held by Philippines and South Korea at 11-under 133.
Taiwan has only 50 women professional golfers. “But we have a lot of younger players coming up,” said Hung at a press conference after the second round.
“This year, we will have five players in the United States LPGA Tour, and we have four in Japan who have been playing for six years there already,” said Hung
Wei finished eighth on the Japanese Tour in 2006. “She has won four times in Japan, and has been rated in the top 30 there for a long time,” said Hung.