Asian Tour chief keeps close eye on China

08:13, March 05, 2010      

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Asian Tour chief Kyi Hla Han regards the development of golf in China as a work in progress.

The game here received a massive boost late last year when the International Olympic Committee voted to return the sport to the Games from 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. That means, as an Olympic sport, state assistance is expected to boost the sport monetarily and logistically and from that should flow a major surge in players and courses in China.

The Asian Tour's executive chairman is keeping a close eye on China and the potentially lucrative market and is cautiously optimistic about the game's future here.

"There is keen interest from sponsors to stage tournaments there," Han recently told China Daily. "However, the playing standard among Chinese players is still at an infancy stage where only a handful of players like Liang Wenchong, Zhang Lianwei and Wu Ashun can perform well against the best players from Asia and around the world.

"Still, the recent announcement that the domestic Chinese tour will be revamped augurs well for golf in China as it will create the playing opportunities for local golfers to improve their games and become better golfers," he said.

Han, a former professional player from Myanmar, said he looked forward to even greater co-operation between his Tour and the China Golf Association (CGA).

"We will continue to engage the CGA in dialogue. It cannot be denied China golf has benefited from the Asian Tour over the past few years," he said.

"Liang was invited to play in the Masters, the British Open and World Golf Championship events in 2008 through his Order of Merit win on the Asian Tour while Zhang was also invited to play at the Masters in 2004.

"Wu established himself on the Asian Tour last year while a number of places are given to Chinese players in the final stage of qualifying school. We will continue to work with the CGA for the mutual benefits of both the Chinese players as well as our Asian Tour players.

"It should be noted that from 2004 to 2007, six tournaments sanctioned by the Asian Tour were played annually in China while five were sanctioned in 2008 which were co-sanctioned and full-field events. This contributed towards a cumulative prize fund of $45 million, which helped to grow the sport and the careers of Chinese golfers."

Han also pointed out that last year's WGC-HSBC Champions and the Omega Mission Hills World Cup in China were sanctioned by his organization through its position on the International Federation of PGA Tours.

Meanwhile, the 49-year-old said there were plenty of exciting Asian players to watch out for on the Asian Tour and abroad this season.

"The established Asian Tour players like Thongchai Jaidee, Jeev Milkha Singh, Liang Wenchong, Jyoti Randhawa, Mardan Mamat and Prayad Marksaeng can easily win big tournaments as they are now world-class," he said.

Source: China Daily
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