The Hong Kong Open will become a US$1 million event next year in a bid to keep its stature as one of the leading and most popular tournaments on the Asian circuit. Omega's Kevin Rollenhagen promised that Hong Kong's oldest professional sporting event would receive an additional US$200,000 as prize money next year so as to keep in line with the increased purses being offered by rival events on the mainland and the rest of Asia. 'There is every reason to believe that next year's Hong Kong Open will be a million-dollar event' Rollenhagen, the company's vice-president for China and Hong Kong, said yesterday. 'We want to ensure that this tournament remains as one of the best in Asia and it is high time that it became a million-dollar event.' The 2005 tournament will be the company's sixth year as title sponsors - provided it is able to strike a new deal with the organisers. 'They have been an excellent sponsor and I'm delighted to say here that next year's event could be for US$1 million in prizemoney. Our hopes have always been to make Hong Kong a million-dollar tournament. This year we increased the prize money by US$100,000 and it will be nice to increase it by US$200,000 next year,' said Iain Valentine, chief executive of the Hong Kong Golf Association. Hong Kong golf officials will hope to avoid all the dramas that occurred this year, with the tournament at one stage facing a threat of a boycott from the Asian Tour. 'We want everything to be sorted out quickly. All contracts are up for renewal including those of the sponsors and the promoters,' Valentine said. He added that a US$1 million purse would boost the Hong Kong Open's chances of getting an even better field. 'Our tournament next year will be back-to-back again with the Volvo China Open which will be played in Shenzhen. If we offer a million dollars, and with China also offering in excess of a million dollars, together it would make a very attractive package for the top players from Europe. We could get an even stronger field next time.' Hong Kong's entry into the million-dollar club will only serve to underline the rapid development of golf in China. Next year there will be at least four events offering in excess of US$1 million on the mainland. And the golf boom on the mainland began only a few years ago. The Asian Tour, which unveiled the first half of the 2005 schedule last week, announced that a new US$1.25 million tournament - the inaugural Chinese Golf Association Championship - and open only to players on the Asian Tour will be held in Beijing in June. In the first half of next year, players will shoot for prize money of US$11.5 million. This is a massive increase on the 2004 first-half pot which offered US$8 million. Asian officials are optimistic of seeing the total prizemoney on the Tour rise to US$20 million from this year's US$12.3 million. 'But while money is important, that alone is not enough to make a tournament great. It needs tradition and a welcome feeling. Hong Kong has both of these in abundance,' added Rollenhagen.