Asian Tour re­turns to China

New Straits Times - - Sport -

SHANG­HAI: Golf ’s Asian Tour an­nounced a new part­ner­ship with China on Fri­day, in­clud­ing the first co-sanctioned tour­na­ments in nine years as it looks to es­tab­lish it­self in the world’s most pop­u­lous na­tion.

The Asian Tour, which or­gan­ises dozens of tour­na­ments around the re­gion each year, has been largely shut out of China since 2008 but it will hold up to four new events there this sea­son.

China Tour and Asian Tour mem­bers will both be el­i­gi­ble to play in the new tour­na­ments, with prize pots of up to US$500,000 (RM2.25 mil­lion) and earn­ings count­ing to­wards both tours’ merit lists.

The tour­na­ment win­ners will re­ceive Asian Tour cards, while the top five non-ex­empt play­ers on China’s or­der of merit will gain ac­cess to the Asian Tour’s qual­i­fy­ing school.

“Re-start­ing co­op­er­a­tion is a game-changer for the Asian Tour and CGA (China Golf As­so­ci­a­tion) as the cre­ation of new tour­na­ments will greatly en­hance playing op­por­tu­ni­ties for our play­ers and for the many tal­ented play­ers com­ing up from China,” Asian Tour CEO Josh Bu­rack said in a state­ment.

“At the same time, th­ese new tour­na­ments will pro­vide more playing op­por­tu­ni­ties for our ex­ist­ing Asian Tour mem­bers who will be de­lighted to re­turn to China. This is a ter­rific new chap­ter for Asian golf.”

The Asian Tour staged co­sanc­tioned tour­na­ments in China from 1995 to 2008, un­til China, Ja­pan, South Korea and Aus­tralia joined the ri­val OneAsia tour which started in 2009.

Amer­ica’s PGA Tour also has a part­ner­ship of­fer­ing Chi­nese golfers a route to its sec­ond-tier cir­cuit, but the new deal of­fers China’s play­ers an­other ca­reer path­way.

China has long been hailed as an im­por­tant new mar­ket for golf, pro­duc­ing play­ers like Zhang Lian­wei, Liang Wen­chong, Wu Ashun and Li Hao­tong, who have all won on the Euro­pean Tour.

De­spite its long ab­sence from China, the Asian Tour has re­mained a sanc­tion­ing part­ner of the an­nual WGC-HSBC Cham­pi­ons in Shang­hai, which in­volves the world’s ma­jor golf tours. AFP

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