All eyes on China as new women's tour tees off

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 May, 2009, 12:00am

As the first event of the China LPGA Tour gets ready to tee off today in Beijing, many of the region's top professionals are looking to make history in becoming the first winner on the new circuit.

'It's great for China golf,' said veteran Yang Hongmei during her practice round for the US$50,000 Beijing Orient Pearl Championship. 'In the past, I maybe lost interest because there were only two or three events a year. Suddenly, there is a tour. We all have hope, so we are encouraged and practise much harder.'

The China LPGA Tour, created by the China Golf Association to foster the development of the women's pro game, will play seven events in its inaugural season. The first six tournaments - Beijing, Yantai, Shanghai, Ningbo, Wenzhou and Xinjiang - each feature a prize purse of US$50,000. The tour ends in December with the fourth edition of the US$250,000 Orient China Ladies Open, a co-sanctioned event with the Korea LPGA.

Yang, who was in a reflective mood on the one-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake in her native Sichuan province, said Beijing brought back good memories as it was where she won last year, marking the start of back-to-back victories on the old Orient Masters Tour. Following her victory last June in Wenzhou, she donated her US$7,500 prize to the quake victims.

'This year there is much promise as I see many new faces [for the China LPGA Tour],' said Yang. 'Some of them are foreigners, some are rookies. They swing beautifully and have great potential. They are very good for the tour. I hope one day there are many more events and the prize money will rise.'