Chinese in plan to bring rival groups together
SPENCER ROBINSON in Beijing
China, for so long out of the golfing mainstream, will this week attempt to play the role of peace-maker in Asia's increasingly cut-throat and confusing professional scene.
In a welcome initiative aimed at healing the rifts between rival organisations in the region, the China Golf Association (CGA) and the organising committee from the Volvo China Tour have called a meeting in Beijing today. Cui Zhiqiang, secretary-general of the CGA, said he hoped representatives from the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation's (APGC) Asian Tour, the Omega Asian PGA Tour and the Republic of China PGA would attend.
'The purpose of the meeting is to bring together decision-making officials,' said Aylwin Tai, assistant director of the China PGA.
Disheartened and distressed at the ever-growing number of date clashes between tournaments on different circuits, Cui and Tai would like to see a more streamlined approach.
'China is strictly neutral and is not for one organisation and against another. China doesn't want to take sides. We believe it is time that everybody sat down together around a table and tried to get to the heart of the problems,' said Tai.
Officials from the Asian PGA Tour, now in its second year, have made numerous attempts to bring about such a gathering. However, their efforts to meet with their counterparts from the long-standing Asian Tour have failed to materialise.
Tai said the increasing prevalence of date clashes was not only harmful to the professionals, but also was confusing for potential sponsors unsure of the complexities of professional golf in Asia.
Said Tai: 'It is intended that we discuss proposed dates for 1997 and how best each Tour can co-operate with each other for the overall benefit of professional golf across Asia.
'We hope that this meeting will be an important first step in working more closely together on a number of issues.' Tai argues that even if the respective circuits opt to continue along their own paths, there is an urgent need to at least consult each other on scheduling.
Not only do his concerns apply to the major established tours, but also to the domestic circuits around the region, which themselves have been expanding in regard to the number of tournaments they are putting on.
In his capacity as managing director of Richtone Worldwide, which owns the rights to the Volvo China Tour and Volvo China Open, Tai admits the current conflicts and disharmony in professional golf in Asia are hindering his ability to plan ahead.
Last year, the inaugural China Open acted as the concluding leg on the APGC's Asian Tour. This year, with the event being staged a month later in order to ensure better course conditions at the Beijing International Golf Club, the Open is a specially approved event on the Omega Tour.
As part of that arrangement, Asian PGA officials agreed not to schedule any events in the past fortnight in order to avoid clashes with the four 36-hole tournaments on the China Tour.
'It just doesn't make sense to stage more than one tournament during the same week. If that happens, it is inevitable that everyone suffers. We want to make sure that does not happen in 1997,' he said.
'We always welcome good players from both tours to compete in our events.' During a recent trip to Asia, New Zealander Frank Nobilo, fourth in last month's US Masters at Augusta and a loyal supporter of tournaments in the region for more than a decade, said he was saddened at the date clashes and described the situation as 'disgusting'.
In an interview with Asian Golfer, Nobilo said: 'It's a terrible state of affairs when players are forced not to play one tour or the other, especially at a time when you want golf to improve in Asia and when you want to get more good players.'