PGA Tour to be part of new tour in China

The Associated Press

SHANGHAI (AP) -- The PGA Tour will be partners in a new tour in China that starts next year with 12 tournaments.

The China Tour-PGA Tour China Series will begin in March with 12 events that have purses of about $200,000. Still to be determined is qualifying procedures, and how many of the top finishers will have access to the Tour in the United States.

''We know from looking at the history of golf that the growth of the game is driven first and foremost by the development of elite players,'' PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said Sunday. ''Having the opportunity to grow the elite players ... will also translate into the acceleration of the growth of the game in China, which is in all of our interests.''

It's a similar model to what the PGA Tour has done in Canada and Latin America. The tour owns those two circuits. The China Tour-PGA Tour China Series is a partnership with the China Golf Association and the China Olympic Sports Industry.

The CGA is the key to every golf deal in China, so it was important for the PGA Tour to have a partnership. The European Tour with its global schedule was the first to bring its players to the Far East in 1992, and it now has three tournaments in China - the Volvo China Open, the BMW Masters and a Challenge Tour event. The HSBC Champions began in the fall of 2005 as a European Tour event and now is a World Golf Championship.

While it was once thought the PGA Tour would try to get a piece of the action in China, instead it is a partner in a tour that gives Chinese players a circuit of their own.

Zhang Xiaoning, the executive vice president of the CGA, said the partnership will develop the sport and golfers in China, ''particularly to provide an opportunity for China golfers to stay in their home to compete in much higher level tournaments.''

Zhang saw the new tour has a starting point for Chinese golfers.

The future of golf in China was helped by the sport being added to the Olympic program in 2016 - a return to the Olympics for the first time in more than a century - and Zhang said golf would continue to grow even if the sport does not stay in the Olympics after 2020.

''The partnership will still be established because the mission is trying to bring not only China golfers into the Olympics, but also to be able to bring China golfers into the world-class level to showcase the development and the skill set of China golfers,'' he said.

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