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Asian Tour has short shelf life here, vows CGA chief
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Domestic golf tournaments sanctioned by the Asian Tour will be replaced by those sanctioned by the OneAsia Tour in the future, Zhang Xiaoning, secretary general of the Chinese Golf Association (CGA), said late last week.

"It's the truth. There will no longer be any Asian Tour events in China," Zhang said. "We have the OneAsia Tour, which covers some of the best golf nations in the Asia-Pacific region, and we believe this will definitely develop the sport (here).

"As for the Asian Tour, the tournaments were ours, the sponsors, everything was ours, but our players got low quotas and we didn't have many tournaments in China. Generally, we didn't get enough benefits from the Asian Tour."

The Australian PGA, together with the South Korean and Chinese Golf Associations, launched the OneAsia Tour late last year as the provisionally titled "super series" to give the sport a regional shot in the arm.

While the Asian Tour declined to comment on Zhang's latest remarks, however, Tour chief Kyi Hla Han has previously denounced the new Asia-Pacific circuit as a "desperate attempt by the PGA of Australia to revive its flagging circuit" by muscling in on the Asian Tour's turf.

Next month's $2.2 million Volvo China Open has been at the center of a tug-of-war in the growing conflict between the two tours. The OneAsia Tour finally announced it as the first event on its six-tournament schedule for 2009, much to the annoyance of its former sanctioning body, which refused to drop the Open from its calendar.

Zhang settled the dispute last Thursday by insisting that the event will now be co-sanctioned by the OneAsia and European Tours, effectively ending its association with the Asian Tour. Zhang made the comments at a press conference for the launch of the event, which runs from April 16 to19 Volvo China Open, which at the CBD International in Beijing.

Swedish carmaker Volvo, which has sponsored the China Open since its inception in 1995, said it was excited to embrace a new era of golf in the region.

"Volvo has always enjoyed good relations with the European and the Asian Tour but we want to continue to be involved in professional golf here in China," Per Ericsson, head of Volvo events, said at the news conference. "So I'm very much looking forward to the future."

Half of the OneAsia Tour's calendar will take place in China - all three events previously fell under the aegis of the Asian Tour - so there was never any doubt the country would prove a decisive battleground.

"China has been one of the strongest, if not the strongest, supporters of the concept from day one," Ben Sellenger of PGA Australia told Reuters after the news conference.

"And as you can see from today, they've given 120 percent backing towards growing the OneAsia platform and believe that it is the future of elite professional golf in the Asia-Pacific region."

Zhang said the number of Chinese players at the China Open could double from last year's 14. "I believe the OneAsia Tour will ... provide more and better tournaments for our players," he said.

(China Daily/Reuters March 24, 2009)

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