Asian Tour's expanded schedule will help fuel development process
More opportunities to hone their skills will help Chinese golfers attain greater international exposure.
That's how Josh Burack, Asian Tour CEO, sums up the importance of the Tour's return to China after an eight-year absence.
“My opinion is that Chinese golfers will rise in the world rankings through greater playing opportunities on the revamped China Tour, which will have both full-field events of its own and co-sanctioned events ... including tournaments with the Asian Tour,” Burack said in an interview with China Daily.
Currently, there are 11 male golfers from Asia ranked in the top 100 by the Official World Golf Ranking, but none of them are from China. The highest ranked Chinese is Li Haotong, at No 146.
“Li has achieved success on the European Tour and I believe he is a very talented and promising young golfer,” said Burack.
Last month the Asian Tour announced its return to China for the first time since 2008, with up to four new events planned this year in what Burack categorizes as “a game-changing partnership” with the China Golf Association.
Burack said all Asian Tour tournaments receive Official World Golf Ranking points, which means players who perform well will see their world ranking improve.
“Working with the Asian Tour will be very helpful for Chinese golfers and international players that compete on the China Tour,” he said.
“We will carefully manage our tournament schedule to ensure there is no clash of tournament dates with existing tournaments. Under this agreement, we will be able to launch up to four new events in China this year, and we hope to further grow that number in 2018.
”This is a very exciting phase for the Asian Tour and CGA as this milestone agreement will greatly enhance the development of the game and players in China and Asia.“
The Asian Tour previously co-sanctioned and staged tournaments with the CGA from 1995 until 2008 before the OneAsia circuit was launched.
Burack said any Chinese golfer who wins one of the new events will earn an Asian Tour winner's exemption, ”which opens up an exciting career pathway on the Asian Tour and beyond as we also co-sanction many tournaments with the European Tour, Japan Tour and PGA Tour of Australasia.“
For Chinese golfers who sign up for associate memberships on the Asian Tour before playing the new co-sanctioned tournaments, their results will count in the order of merit.
Additionally, the top five Chinese on the China Tour order of merit will earn exemption to the final stage of the Asian Tour's 2018 qualifying school, which is the gateway to playing a full tournament schedule across Asia.
Burack is confident the new tournaments will give up-and-coming homegrown golfers more experience and more options to play internationally.
”As the Asian Tour has not staged any tournaments in China for eight years, we haven't identified any particular Chinese golfers ... but we know there are many out there,“ he said.
China golf legends Zhang Lianwei and Liang Wenchong took time to eventually establish themselves on the Asian Tour, with Zhang winning five tournaments and Liang winning the order of merit title.
”They competed regularly in Asian Tour tournaments across the region and also played in events held in China which helped them sharpen their professional teeth and understand the playing standards needed to achieve greater success in Asia,“ said Burack.
”With new playing opportunities, I am confident Chinese golfers will take full advantage of our platform to improve their skills and become competitive against the best players from the Asian Tour.“
Zhang, who is a CGA committee member and board member of the Asian Tour, agreed.
”I started my career on the Asian Tour and it has given me lots of opportunities to grow and improve as a player,“ he said.
”I'm confident this partnership will grow from strength to strength which will ultimately go a long way towards promoting the development of golf in China."