China's golf boom has just got bigger with Asian tour officials yesterday announcing that a new flagship tournament - the richest on the mainland - will be played in Beijing next June. The inaugural China Golf Association Championship will be held from June 2-5 at the Grand Ipoch (Top City) Golf Club in Beijing. The new event will offer record prize money of US$1.25 million, making it the most lucrative full-field Asian Tour event in China. 'We are delighted to announce that the first half of the 2005 Asian Tour schedule will include a number of new events including one in China. The CGA Championship is a landmark development as it will be the richest full-field Asian Tour tournament in professional golf history in Asia,' said Louis Martin, chief executive of the Asian Tour. The CGA Championship will take the number of tournaments in China from six this year to seven next year - two in Beijing, two in Shenzhen, and one each in Shanghai, Sanya, and Tianjin - highlighting the craze for the 'green opium' - on the mainland. If the Hong Kong Open and the Macau Open are added, the total in China adds up to nine. Martin, who used to head the former South African PGA Tour, said the maths simply reflected the rising economic power of the world's most populous country. 'China is a market where there is tremendous attraction for corporations and sponsors to be involved in professional golf in Asia. This is an important development for Asia, and China in particular, as the potential is immense,' Martin said. Apart from the Beijing event, the fledgling Asian Tour will also host groundbreaking events in Brunei and Qatar in the first half of the year. Asia's top golfers will now get the chance to shoot for a total prize money of US$11.5 million in the first six months of 2005 compared to US$8 million on offer for the first half of 2004. The US$1.5 million Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club will join the Asian Tour for the first time in March. Established in 1998 as a European Tour event, the organisers have invited the Asian Tour to co-sanction the tournament in view of the 2006 Asian Games being held in Doha. The oil-rich sultanate of Brunei will hold its first national open at the Empire Hotel and Country Club in Bandar Seri Begeawan in June. The prize money for this is US$300,000. 'We are growing stronger and we can expect to surpass our inaugural year  with more new events offering more prize money for our players in 2005,' said Martin. This year a total of 22 tournaments were held for total prize money of US$12.3 million. In 2005, there will be 25 events with an estimated prize money of close to US$20 million. In the first half of next year, five of the 14 tournaments will offer purses exceeding a million dollars. Martin said that the Asian Tour's Board of directors had agreed that the co-sanction programme with the European Tour had reached saturation point. 'We need to create and maintain a balance. Our focus now is to offer new playing opportunities for our members through the establishment of full-field events [only for Asian Tour players] such as the CGA Championship and the Brunei Open,' he said.