China LPGA Branches into Brunei

Jerudong, Brunei: The China LPGA (CLPGA) Tour will expand its footprint into new territory when the Brunei Ladies Open tees-off today, marking the start of the 2018 season.
In a tournament created to strengthen cultural ties and grow the women’s professional game in Asia, the KRW700 million (about US$658,000) event is tri-sanctioned with the Brunei Darussalam Golf Association (BDGA) and the LPGA of Korea Tour (KLPGA).
All told, 102 players are gathered at the seaside resort of Jerudong to take on the Jack Nicklaus-designed Empire Hotel and Country Club course, a par-71, 6,397-yard layout that gets its teeth from the ever-present wind blowing off the South China Sea.
With the BDGA committing to staging the event for three years initially, CLPGA Tour Chairman TK Pen said that the co-operation would establish a ‘high-level competitive platform’ that would reach far beyond golf and promote important cultural exchanges between the countries.
“Brunei is a peaceful and friendly country with a wealth of tourism resources,” said Pen, Honorary Vice President of the China Golf Association, who started the CLPGA Tour in 2009 with six events. This year, the Tour will host a minimum of 15 events.
“The successful hosting of this tournament will create awareness of Brunei’s natural beauty and humanity to the people of China and Korea helping to promote tourism to the country.”
With the Sultanate boasting a handful of courses for public play, BDGA president Pengiran Dato Mustapha said he hoped this new tournament would expose more people to the sport and create a new generation of local pros to help the country compete internationally.
“My thanks to the CLPGA and KLPGA for bringing so many top female professional golfers to Brunei,” he said. “I believe that this event can motivate more teenagers to participate in this sport and promote the development of golf in Brunei.”
Among the top Koreans in the field for the third tournament of the KLPGA Tour season are Oh Ji-hyun, third on last year’s KLPGA Order of Merit, Kim Min-sun, a winner of four career tournaments in Korea, and Ha Min-song, who lost a play-off to compatriot Jang Ha-na at last week’s Korea Investment and Securities Championship in Vietnam.
The CLPGA Tour challenge includes Order of Merit leader Saranporn Langkulgasettrin of Thailand, Tahnia Ravnjak, the Australian who went wire-to-wire to win last month’s qualifying school, and China’s Shi Yuting, back on her home circuit after losing her playing card in Japan.
The Beijing native expressed her appreciation for Brunei’s beauty on her first visit to the country and said coming here was important to help grow the game in the region.
“To players like me it’s a very good opportunity to communicate with players from different countries about the skills and culture as well,” said 20-year-old Shi, a two-time winner on the CLPGA Tour.
“To the tournaments, it’s also a process of reciprocity. The China LPGA Tour brings world ranking points and stronger line-ups to the events. More and more top players are joining the China Tour. As the golf industry of Southeast Asia develops rapidly these years the CLPGA Tour actively goes out and plays a role as a moderator.”

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