Beijing, China: World number nine and defending champion Feng Shanshan joined organisers and local dignitaries at the official launch of the Reignwood LPGA Classic, as China’s pre-eminent women’s tournament was launched in dramatic style.
Feng took time out from a busy Tour schedule to attend the launch for the second year of the tournament in China’s capital city, as organisers announced an increased purse to US$ 2.1 million, making it the richest women’s tournament in Asia.
Feng has enjoyed consistent form this year, claiming six top-10 finishes and a second place in the World Ladies Championship (team event) in Hainan.
Speaking at the Reignwood Theatre in Beijing, Feng said: “It’s great to be back home and to come back to Reignwood. This was undoubtedly my best tournament last year when everything came together and I was able to play some great golf. I love playing in China – I get great support from all the fans and can just relax and play my game.
“The contribution that this tournament makes to the development of the game in China is huge. Fans can get to see the world’s best players competing in our capital city and I hope that it inspires some of them to go on and achieve great things in the game themselves.”
Galba Zheng, President of Reignwood Pine Valley, said: “Last year’s event was an unprecedented success, attracting a high quality field and more than 30,000 spectators. We take great encouragement from that, knowing what we are doing here with the tournament is quite unique. We have full confidence that we will build on the success of last year’s tournament and that the Reignwood LPGA Classic will continue to have a major influence on the development of the game both here in China and around the world.”
Zhang Xiaoning, Vice-President and Secretary General of the China Golf Association, added: “The Reignwood LPGA Classic is already one of China’s and the international golf community’s leading tournaments. As we look ahead to golf’s re-introduction to the Olympics Games, we look forward to seeing the tournament establish itself as one of the leading sporting events in China and one that plays an important role in the development of China’s future golf stars.”
Mike Whan, Commissioner of the LPGA Tour, said: “We can’t wait to get back to the beautiful Reignwood Pine Valley this fall. It’s a phenomenal event in China that also sees the broadcast go to over 160 countries worldwide. It’s also a unique and incredible partnership between the China Golf Association, the China LPGA, IMG and Reignwood Pine Valley Golf Club together with the LPGA.”
In a new development for the tournament, organisers announced that each year a tree will be planted at the Pine Valley Golf Club in honour of the reigning champion, with the first tree to be named after Feng Shanshan.
Feng and fellow VIPs were presented with a pine sapling in a symbolic move created to draw attention to the importance of environmental sustainability around the world and the future growth of the game in China.
Galba Zheng said: “The Reignwood Group strongly believes in the benefits of a healthy and active lifestyle and respecting our natural surroundings. The game of golf is fully consistent with that belief and for this reason we are investing in the future of the game in China. We are also acutely aware of the environmental challenges that we face both here in China and around the world and felt that planting trees is a simple but very positive message that the tournament can deliver.”
Grant Slack, Senior Vice-President IMG Golf Asia-Pacific, said: “As the pre-eminent woman’s golf Tour in the world, the LPGA Tour is synonymous with elite, professional women’s golf and a very high standard of competition. IMG is proud to be associated with this world-class tournament and we look forward to its continued growth in China.”
The 2014 Reignwood LPGA Classic will see 81 players – 62 LPGA players, 15 players from China Ladies Professional Players Ranking List and four sponsor exemption – compete in the 72-hole, no-cut tournament, which will be staged on the Nicklaus Course at Pine Valley from October 2-5.