China Open to become truly accessible with pre-qualifying
The Volvo China Open has become more 'open' this year with pre-qualifying to be held for the first time in the championship's 11-year history.
The tournament will be played from November 24-27 at Shenzhen Golf Club, where prize money has been increased by US$300,000 to US$1.3 million.
In line with entry procedures with that of the Open Championship and the US Open, organisers of the mainland event said eight spots would be made available to Chinese golfers in pre-qualifying this year.
Mel Pyatt, president and CEO of Volvo Event Management, said the move would give non-exempt Chinese players the opportunity to aim for one of Asia's richest purses and be a part of the national Open.
'Last year, the Volvo China Open took a massive step forward by being jointly sanctioned for the first time by the Asian Tour and European Tour.
'This propelled the Volvo China Open on to the global stage with extensive worldwide television coverage,' said Pyatt.
'As the championship of the world's most populous nation, we feel the time has come for us to make the Open Championship truly open and give non-exempt players the opportunity to qualify and play in our event.
'We are confident this move will spark a greater drive among Chinese golfers to raise the bar. Our ultimate goal and reward would be to see one of the local qualifiers rising to the occasion and winning the Volvo China Open.'
Regional qualifying will be held in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangdong in October with the leading 36 players from each venue, totalling 108 players, moving forward to the final qualifying to be held at Shanghai Silport Golf Club the week prior to the China Open.
The professional players among the top eight qualifiers at the finals will share a prize fund of US$8,000, while the leading amateur player will receive a specially crafted crystal trophy.
Pyatt said the pre-qualifying will be open to male and female professional golfers, who must be residents on the mainland, as well as amateurs with a USGA handicap index of up to 8.0.
Last year, Stephen Dodd claimed a thrilling victory at Shanghai Silport to become the 10th China Open champion. Subsequently, the quiet Welshman has produced another victory on the European Tour, claiming the recent Irish Open.
A field of 144 players will feature in the China Open this November, with players from the Asian Tour and European Tour, China Golf Association, sponsors' invites and the qualifying places.
The China Open is the first 72-hole open competition named after the nation and it is China's first high-prized international golf event.
The event has also cultivated first class golfers in China and Asia such as Zhang Lianwei, Cheng Jun and Liang Wenchong.