PGA Tour expands Asian influence with China series

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem

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The PGA Tour expanded its web of influence with the Nov. 3 announcement of its role in a new professional golf tour in China.

PGA Tour China will begin in March and feature 12 tournaments throughout the country offering purses of about $200,000.

Whereas The PGA Tour owns PGA Tour Canada and PGA Tour Latinoamerica, the establishment of the China series is a partnership with the China Golf Association and event promoter China Olympic Sports Industry.

The new tour creates a pathway for China's elite players to earn promotions to the Web.com Tour, much like the Tour has done by offering five cards to the top finishers on the money lists in Canada and Latin America.

“This tour will create a credible, professional China tour to develop and advance players to the global stage,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said at a news conference at Sheshan International Golf Club, host of the recent WGC-HSBC Champions.

Zhang Xiaoning, the executive vice president of the CGA, noted that the organizations spent two years in negotiations. Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hainan, sites already home to international-level golf courses, were mentioned as potential tournament hosts.

The PGA Tour’s involvement in China dates to its support of the World Cup being held at Mission Hills Resort Shenzhen in 1995. In recent years, the European Tour visited China through a series of co-sanctioned events with the OneAsia Tour. But the PGA Tour signaled its interest to increase its efforts in China when it announced the August hiring of Greg Gilligan as a vice president and managing director of the Tour’s affiliate in China, PGA Tour (Beijing) Management Consulting.

“We don't see any effect on either OneAsia or The European Tour's interests in co-sanctioning events in certain places,” Finchem said. “Matter of fact, if we're just talking about China, the extent to which they accelerate those things would be a positive.”

Kyi Hla Han, head of the Asian Tour, called the news a “positive development for Chinese professional golfers and other Asian players in the region.”

Golf’s return to the Olympics for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games has energized China’s interest in the sport, and the new tour is considered to be a steppingstone for Chinese golfers to get into the Olympics. But Sun Liping, president of China Olympic Sports Industry, said the new tour goes well beyond the development of Olympic golfers.

“I firmly believe that this is the key component to continuing the development of the golf industry and increasing golf's popularity in China,” he said.

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