China Tour opens window to the world

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American Charlie Saxon poses with the trophy after winning the Shenzhou Peninsula Classic on Saturday, the opening event of the China Tour season.

The first tournament of the China Tour season wrapped up at the Dunes Golf Club in Shenzhou, Hainan province on Saturday, with a pair of homegrown players finishing among the top 10 in the Shenzhou Peninsula Classic.

American Charlie Saxon fired a final round of 66 to finish with an 11-under 277 and take home the top prize of 243,000 yuan ($38,500), edging Canada's Sunil Jung and Australia's Fraser Wilkin, who were tied for second at 278.

China's Jin Daxing and Ye Jianfeng tied for seventh at 280, and each pocketed 51,300 yuan ($7,900).

Launched by the China Golf Association in 2005, the tour schedule initially consisted of a handful of annual tournaments with a modest prize pool.

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

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

The tour rejoined the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) this year and will cooperate with other international tournament organizations, including the European and the Asian Tours, to provide homegrown talent with opportunities to compete in more advanced tournaments.

"The CGA believes the China Tour can successfully operate independently and become a world-class national brand that can influence international golf," said Pang Zheng, secretary general of the CGA.

Jonathan Ouyang, the China Tour's regular season chief of operations, said great strides have been made towards achieving that goal.

"With the help of the General Administration of Sport of China and the CGA, we invited the OWGR here to discuss how we could rejoin the rankings," said Ouyang.

"We also have been improving the quality of our tour by adding more events."

Many domestic golfers, including Li Haotong, the first Chinese man to crack the world's top 50, launched their careers on the China Tour. The tour also has been focusing on the next generation.

"Lots of parents now see the positive value of golf and are encouraging their children to play the sport," said Ouyang. "Some of those children will grow up to be professional players.

"For many young amateurs, we offer opportunities to compete in high-level competitions. For each tournament, we provide up to eight wild cards."

Meanwhile, the China Tour is earning praise from many established players.

Zhang Lianwei, the first Chinese golfer to win on the European Tour, said he is very impressed with the domestic tour's development.

"The biggest change is that the tour rejoined the OWGR," said Zhang.

"I always believed that Chinese players are competitive and that all we needed was a better platform.

"Now, with the upgraded China Tour, Chinese players have a ladder to help them play at a higher level on the international stage. And more foreign players can compete in China."

Zhang also believes the tour provides a huge promotion for golf in China.

"The China Tour is building a platform for our golfers, and more importantly it is helping promote the sport in China," he said.

"We have to have our own national brand to help our golfers go further."

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