Haikou, China: The PGA Tour’s inaugural China Series tees-off on Thursday with the Mission Hills Haikou Open on tropical Hainan Island, where Chinese and international players will begin their bid to finish in the top-five of the money list and qualify for the 2015 Web.com Tour in the United States.
The rewards match those on offer at the PGA Tour’s other satellite series in Latin America and Canada, and Thailand’s Panuphol Pittayarat is among the international players looking forward to the chance to play in China.
“Every professional wants to play the PGA Tour, the biggest Tour in the world. The Web.com Tour is one of the steps and I’m ready to take that first step,” said Panuphol, who earned his playing privileges by recording a top-five finish at the first qualifying tournament, in Shenzhen.
“China’s a big country and it’s giving us the opportunity to play golf. To play professional golf out here is a good thing and I like it,” he said.
A collaboration between the PGA Tour and China Golf Association, the China Series will feature 12 tournaments this year, with the first five running from April to early June. Following a two-month hiatus, the series will host another seven tournaments, culminating in the Tour Championship in November.
Chinese players are the main beneficiaries of the new series with the top-70 from the China Golf Association’s end-of-2013 rankings automatically qualifying. They’re joined by players from overseas who have come through one of two pre-season qualifying tournaments or have qualified via other Tours.
Action started with a one-round qualifier on Monday, from which the top 10 finishers earned starting spots in the 72-hole tournament from Thursday to Sunday, with around 120 players teeing off in the first round.
Both the qualifier and main tournament are being staged on the 7,228-yard, par-72 Sandbelt Trails Course, one of 10 championship courses at Mission Hills Haikou. The purse for the Mission Hills Haikou Open is RMB1.2 million (about US$200,000), with the winner earning RMB216,000 (about US$35,000).
Many of the players in the Mission Hills Haikou Open field are already well acquainted with the Sandbelt Trails Course, which hosted the China Series’ second qualifying tournament last month. One of those players is Alex Hawley, who won that qualifier with a four-shot victory over fellow Australian Ray Beaufils.
“I showed to myself that I could come here on my first time to China and play well and feel comfortable playing on these types of courses,” Hawley said. “It’s massive for my confidence. I’m glad I can play somewhere and China is very good. I’m looking forward to it.”
Tenniel Chu, Vice Chairman of Mission Hills Group, has welcomed the China Series and is looking forward to a landmark week.
“It is wholly appropriate that Mission Hills should be the venue for this first tournament,” he said. “For more than 20 years, we have been the pioneering force in China’s golf development, bringing world-class players to our courses while at the same time implementing the biggest and most comprehensive junior programmes of any club in the world.
“Our continuing commitment is illustrated by the fact that three of our 22 courses are kept open to juniors free of charge, all year round. We congratulate the PGA Tour and China Golf Association on their bold initiative in launching the China Series.”
Birmingham, England: The PGA of Great Britain & Ireland is inviting all those who work or volunteer in golf to join its new membership groups – the Business Management Group and Club Volunteer by PGA.