Asian Tour hails return to China as ‘game changer’ as OneAsia falls out of favour on the mainland

Up to four new events will be added in 2017 with prize purses of US$300,000-US$500,000, with further expansion after signing strategic partnership with China Golf Association

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 March, 2017, 3:17pm
UPDATED : Monday, 20 March, 2017, 12:19pm

The Asian Tour has hailed their return to China for the first time since 2008 as a “game changer” with up to four new events planned for this year, signalling the further demise of the breakaway OneAsia circuit which had seen the two sides go their separate ways some eight years ago.

Asia’s sanctioning body previously co-sanctioned and staged tournaments with the China Golf Association (CGA) from 1995 until 2008 before the OneAsia circuit began in 2009 as a joint venture between the PGA Tour of Australasia, the CGA, the Korean Golf Association and the Korean PGA.

But with the 2017 OneAsia schedule only listing three confirmed events this year, all of which are co-sanctioned, and one unconfirmed tournament in China, the Asian Tour has signed a strategic partnership with the CGA with the new events offering prize purses of US$300,000-US$500,000.

“We are honoured to forge a strategic partnership with the CGA which is truly a significant development for professional golf in Asia,” said Asian Tour chief executive officer Josh Burack.

“The CGA has been fantastic in sharing their vision to grow the game in China which is aligned to our own mission to do the same in China and across Asia as a whole.

“Re-starting cooperation is a game changer for the Asian Tour and CGA as the creation of new tournaments will greatly enhance playing opportunities for our players and for the many talented players coming up from China.”

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American Burack last year confirmed that talks had taken place between the parties in Shanghai, saying: “It’s an important market and we have ongoing dialogue with the Chinese Golf Association. We’re optimistic we’ll be able to work with them to stage some tournaments together in China.”

Burack has endured a busy few months since taking control of the Asian Tour in September 2016 as a potential merger with the European Tour was downgraded to a “strategic alliance” in February.

Earnings from the new events will count towards both the Asian Tour and China Tour order of merits, while winners of the co-sanctioned tournaments will also earn exemption on the Asian Tour.

China Tour players will be eligible to take up associate memberships with the Asian Tour, with the top-five non-exempt players from the China Tour order of merit receiving exemptions into the final stage of the Asian Tour qualifying school in 2018.

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“The last time the CGA worked with the Asian Tour was back in 2008. We welcome the Asian Tour back to China and look forward to co-sanctioning a number of tournaments so as to develop the game of golf in China and also in Asia,” said China Golf Association vice president Wang Liwei.

“As the governing body for golf in China, the CGA continues to place utmost importance towards the development of golf in our country.

“We are optimistic our partnership with the Asian Tour will generate greater interest in the game amongst sports fans and sponsors in China and also provide Chinese professional golfers with many career pathways onto the international stage.”

The Asian Tour already co-sanctions the US$9,500,000 WGC-HSBC Champions event in Shanghai as they are a member of the International Federation of PGA Tours, with further events in China set to be added in 2018 and beyond.

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“I’m delighted the China Golf Association has entered into this strategic partnership with the Asian Tour,” said veteran Chinese golfer Zhang Lianwei, who is a CGA committee member and board member of the Asian Tour.

“I started my career on the Asian Tour and it has given me lots of opportunities to grow and improve as a player.

“I’m confident this partnership will grow from strength to strength which will ultimately go a long way towards promoting the development of golf in China.”