Asian Tour loses event to new rival

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Officials of the Asian Tour and One Asia Super Series stated their case April 8 to the International Golf Federation during meetings held at Augusta National. At stake is which sanctioning body will control Asian golf in the near term.

Their dispute continues, but one matter has been made clear: The Volvo China Open, originally scheduled as a co-sanctioned event by the European and Asian Tour, will be contested April 16-19 as the debut event of One Asia.

Asian Tour executive chairman Kyi Hla Han met with his members at the Black Mountain Masters in Thailand in late March and informed them that he would enforce a release policy. Asian Tour members who play in the Volvo China Open without an official release will face a fine of $5,000 and a suspension of membership for the remainder of the 2009 season. (Dual members of the Asian and European Tours and Chinese golfers will be granted a release, he said).

It's difficult to ascertain whether a consensus opinion exists among Asian Tour members regarding the One Asia circuit. But at least one member, Prayad Marksaeng, said he staunchly supports his tour and vowed not to play in any One Asia events.

Another event, the Pine Valley Beijing Open faced a far worse fate. The tournament, scheduled for May 7-10, was canceled while waiting for the governing bodies to reach a resolution. A co-sanctioned event between the Asian Tour and Japan Tour last year, the Pine Valley Beijing Open, was slated this year to be the second leg of the One Asia Super Series.

One Asia was launched earlier this year with a six-event schedule in the Asia-Pacific region. Supported by the PGA Tour of Australasia, Korea Golf Tour and China Golf Association, One Asia is designed to provide its best players with access to the biggest tournaments across the region.

Conceptually, the idea of bringing together all the best players in the region has won widespread support. But making it a reality has been a challenge. There’s little agreement among many questions: Who will run it? How many spots will be allocated for each tour? How will revenues be shared?

Thus far, Han has seen little reason to work with One Asia.

“If they were bringing in new sponsors and tournaments that would be something else,” Han said, “but they are just taking away from us.”

Meanwhile, the Asian Tour is facing other woes. The Bangkok Post reported April 8 that the Jaidee Invitational presented by Raimon Land, has been postponed indefinitely. Boasting a purse of $500,000, the event had been scheduled to make its debut on the Asian Tour from April 30 to May 3 at the Siam Country Club in Pattaya, Thailand. The primary sponsor for the tournament, a Thai real estate company, backed out because it has been hard-hit by the economy.

That adds to a growing list of casualties for the Asian Tour. The Volvo China Open, Midea China Classic and Korea Open have joined One Asia.

Furthermore, the Emaar-MGF Indian Masters, BMW Asian Open, Philippine Open, Bangkok Airways Open and the Thailand PGA Championship, which were all featured on the 2008 schedule, have been canceled or postponed. (The Indian Masters and BMW Asian Open were both co-sanctioned with the European Tour.)

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