Xie Chengfeng had a fever. Otherwise, the Chinese golfer would have been driving his orange coupe to the practice range on this June morning rather than languishing in bed, cold towel on his forehead, in his four-story mansion. Five years ago, Xie (pronounced “shee-eh”) and his family uprooted themselves and moved to Mission Hills, a sprawling golf resort in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen for just one purpose: so he could become the next Tiger Woods.
Nearly every day of the year, when he’s not competing in a tournament, Xie works out in the morning, using the punching bag, medicine balls and bull whip (to strengthen his wrists) in the second-floor living room overlooking a quiet lagoon. Then he’s off to the members-only driving range for two hours of training, hitting balls with every club in his bag. After lunch, Xie works on chipping and putting before playing a round on one of Mission Hills’ 22 courses (it bills itself as the world’s largest golf club). Nearly every other activity is designed to benefit Xie’s golf game: piano lessons to strengthen his fingers; math tutorials to help him calculate distances, wind speeds and green breaks; and a daily English class to prepare him for his eventual arrival on the PGA Tour.
Xie is 8 years old.