The Asian Professional Golfers' Association was last night officially welcomed into the world golfing fold. In a significant development for the professional game in the region, the Asian PGA's Omega Tour was confirmed as an associate member of the PGA Tours International Federation. 'This is an historic day for Asian sport,' said Seamus O'Brien, chairman of Asian PGA Tour Ltd. 'We have been in existence for less than four years and for us to be included as part of this new global body is an amazing achievement,' added O'Brien, the mastermind behind the formation of the Asian PGA in 1994. Following the announcement at a media conference attended by dozens of international journalists covering the 127th British Open, Ramlan Harun, the Asian PGA's executive director, was equally buoyant. 'This is the greatest moment of my involvement with professional golf. It's a tremendous boost for us all,' said Harun, who posed for pictures alongside representatives from the five original members of the federation - the PGA European Tour, the US PGA Tour, the Southern African PGA Tour, the PGA Tour of Australasia and the PGA Tour of Japan. During his introductory remarks about the forthcoming World Championships, US PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem revealed that the Omega Tour's application to join the federation had been accepted. PGA European Tour executive director Ken Schofield, who attended last year's Omega PGA Championship at Clearwater Bay, said the Omega Tour had proved itself over a period of time. 'The Omega Tour has been based on consistency. The general feeling was that any tour could join us provided they had demonstrated five years of consistent operations and scheduling and we feel that the Omega Tour is well down that path. 'They are well placed to become a full member of the federation in the new millennium,' said Schofield. Nevertheless, as an associate member, the Omega Tour will be a full voting member of the federation. Said O'Brien: 'The federation will be driving the professional game globally. Unless you are a part of the world body, you'll never make it. 'To be included gives us added credibility and means we are the recognised body for professional golf in Asia. We will have a fair and equal say in the future development of the professional game.' Finchem and Schofield also confirmed that three World Championships tournaments will be staged in 1999. The Andersen Consulting Matchplay Championship in February, the NEC World Invitational in August and November's American Express Championships will all boast US$5 million purses. Although the fields for the elite events have not been finalised, O'Brien said he was hopeful that the Asian PGA would be represented. Formed in March 1996, the creation and joint sanctioning of 'world-championship level competitions for the world's foremost international players' has been one of the main initiatives of the federation. O'Brien said membership of the federation would bring other benefits to the Asian PGA and its members. 'Our aim has always been to provide a platform for Asian players to get on to the world stage. We have already been successful in that and, as members of the federation, more opportunities will open up,' he said. The Omega Tour's breakthrough is also likely to exert further pressure on the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation's rival Asian Tour to bring their tournaments under the Asian PGA's umbrella.