Singapore: The strategic partnership between the China Golf Association (CGA) and Asian Tour will boost the growth and development of professional golf in the region. That’s the view of senior Asian Tour members.
Under the new collaboration, golfers will enjoy increased playing opportunities with the CGA and Asian Tour planning to stage up to four new events in China this year. Earnings will count towards the Asian Tour Order of Merit and China Tour Order of Merit.
Indian Jeev Milkha Singh, a two-time Asian Tour Order of Merit champion and a winner in China previously, expressed his excitement over the partnership which was signed in Shanghai last month.
“This is not only a good thing for the Asian Tour but it will also benefit the golf scene in China. I am sure golf in the region will grow stronger from this partnership, especially with the increased playing opportunities for players.
“Winning the 2006 Volvo China Open was one of the sweetest moments in my career. It was a turning point for me and it will always be special. I have a lot of good memories in China and I am looking forward to going back again,” said 45-year-old Singh.
“I remember those days when I played in China. Not many people knew about golf then. But things are different now. The golf scene in China has improved a lot over the years. There are many world-class courses in China now.
“When I played there years ago, Zhang (Lian-wei) was one of the few active Chinese players on Tour. It’s good to see a lot of talented players around now like Liang Wen-chong, Wu Ashun, Li Haotong and many more,” Singh added.
The new tie-up will see the Asian Tour returning to China for co-sanctioned events with the CGA after a nine-year gap.
Indian Rahil Gangjee, 38, said it brought back fond memories of his breakthrough Asian Tour victory in China some 13 years ago.
“When I found out that we are going back to China, I recalled a lot of happy memories from my win in Beijing. I am hopeful the tournaments will grow in strength over the coming years,” said Gangjee.
Thailand’s Prom Meesawat, a two-time Asian Tour champion, also praised the new partnership. “It’s good to see the Asian Tour working with the CGA again to create more playing opportunities for players.
“I hope this relationship can become stronger and the tournaments will be successful. I missed playing in China. It has been a long time since I last played an Asian Tour event there,” said 32-year-old Prom.
Other Asian Tour stalwarts including Anirban Lahiri, the Order of Merit winner in 2015, Korean Wang Jeung-hun and Australian Marcus Both took to Twitter.
Lahiri tweeted: ‘Onward and upwards #AsiaRising’ while Wang wrote: ‘Really good news to hear Asian Tour going back into China again. Massive. Well done! #whereitsAT’.
Golfers from the China Tour 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 spots in the Final Stage of the Asian Tour Qualifying School in 2018.
Winners of these new co-sanctioned tournaments in China will also earn exemptions on the Asian Tour under the winner’s category.
Prize purses of the new events will range from US$300,000 to US$500,000.