Asian Tour punishes rebel members

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The Asian Tour’s conflict with new rival, the One Asia Super Series, intensified as the established circuit carried out its threat of punishing members who competed in One Asia’s debut event.

Four Australian players face a $5,000 fine and 12-month ban from the Asian Tour for participating in the Volvo China Open. The tournament was previously part of the Asian Tour calendar, but the China Golf Association, which governs the event, sided with the new circuit.

One Asia – which also is backed by the PGA Tour of Australasia and the Korea Golf Tour – has been in a turf battle with the Asian Tour, which is accusing the upstart of usurping existing tournaments rather than creating its own.

Asian Tour executive director Kyi Hla Han met with his members at the Black Mountain Masters in Thailand in late March and informed them that he would impose sanctions on members if they play One Asia events without an official release. He said they could face a fine of $5,000 and a suspension of membership for the remainder of the 2009 season.

The four Australians among the 15 players who defied the Asian Tour were Chris Gaunt, Brad Kennedy, Jason King and Ashley Hall, according to Asian Tour officials. Four other Australians – Tony Carolan, Terry Pilkadaris, Scott Barr and Darren Beck – all withdrew.

“Players have made their decision to play in the Volvo China Open knowing the consequences which may face them,” Han told Agence France-Presse. “We will be going through the normal process of discussing this with the Tournament Players Committee and the players will be notified in due course.”

No announcement is expected as it is Tour policy that disciplinary matters are handled internally.

Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee and India’s Shiv Kipur and S.S.P. Chowrasia, who qualified as European Tour card-holders, were among those who were allowed to play without penalty as were China’s Liang Wenchong and Zhang Lianwei. But the field was depleted without many Asian Tour members. India’s Jyoti Randhawa and American Anthony Kang were eligible to play but skipped the event in a show of solidarity with the Asian Tour.

“Many talented players with potential to become the Volvo China Open Champion [were] denied entry because of this One Asia conflict,” Kang said.

Han said he was following the letter of the law of the tour’s rules and regulations, which states that members can’t compete in a tournament or exhibition in the seven days before or after an Asian Tour event without being granted a release.

“As a former player, it is not my intention to prevent playing opportunities to our members, but the manner in which One Asia has pushed on with its plan without official involvement of the Asian Tour is detrimental to the future growth of the Asian Tour,” Han said in a statement.

Gaganjeet Bhullar, a member of the Asian Tour’s Tournament Players Committee, supported Han’s enforcement of the rules.

“I totally agree with the decision because the way One Asia is dealing with the Asian Tour is not correct,” he told the Hindustan Times.

Wire reports contributed to this story

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