China Tour paving path to global tournaments

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With Li Haotong, the first Chinese man to crack the world's top 50, winning the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in January and Feng Shanshan still ranked the world's No 1 female golfer, Chinese talent has been in the international spotlight.

That will continue with the China Tour, which launched its new season on Tuesday at the Dunes Golf Club in Shenzhou of Hainan province, with the winner set to pocket 1.35 million yuan ($210, 000).

This year's tour features around 20 events including regular tournaments, co-sanctioned ones and the flagship Tour Championship.

The top 60 players in the new Belt and Road honor rankings, which will be updated weekly, will qualify for the season-ending Tour Championship.

According to Jonathan Ouyang, the China Tour's regular season chief of operations, the main aim is to elevate the competition to elite global status.

"The China Tour represents the longest tournament season in the country and features the biggest prize pool, the most international players and the most host cities," said Ouyang. "It represents China's national strategy of golf. As a premier brand, it will become a renowned platform that welcomes players from all around the world."

Another goal of the China Tour is to help domestic golfers showcase their skills on bigger international stages.

Since 2017, the tour has collaborated with the European Challenge Tour and Asian Tour to afford homegrown talent with opportunities to compete in more advanced tournaments. Xiao Bowen, for example, used the China Tour as a springboard to more than 30 international events last year.

This year the tour has rejoined the Official World Golf Rankings and will cooperate with other international tournament organizations, including the European Tour and the Asian Tour, to steer domestic players to bigger platforms.

The China Golf Association (CGA) launched the Omega China Tour in 2005. The tournament schedule initially consisted of a handful of annual events with a modest prize pool.

"We now cooperate with major golf organizations around the word to help make our tournaments better and more open," said CGA secretary general Pang Zheng.

"We will work together to make China Tour a national brand as well as a prominent international tournament."

China golf pioneer Zhang Lianwei appreciates the benefits: "I'm happy to witness the development of Chinese golf with support from the CGA. I hope more players will compete on the China Tour and more young Chinese golfers will strive for better results."

One of those young guns, Liu Yanwei, agreed.

"Last year I focused on the Asian Tour, but this year I will put my focus on the China Tour," said Liu. "I hope to qualify for the Asian Tour and European Tour by winning on the China Tour."

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