HONG KONG • The Asian Tour is aiming to hold more tournaments in "golf-crazy" South Korea and Japan after striking a breakthrough deal to return to China.
"Korea is an instrumental market for golf in Asia," the Asian Tour's chief executive officer Josh Burack said yesterday.
Two weeks ago, he announced a new partnership with the Chinese Golf Association (CGA) that will see the Asian Tour co-sanctioning four new tournaments with prize purses of between US$300,000 (S$418,550) and US$500,000. Now he says the Tour has designs on Korea and Japan as it seeks more playing opportunities for its members in the lucrative East Asian market.
"We are trying to put more focus on East Asia because those are the biggest markets in Asia, right?" said Burack.
"I mean Korea, Japan, China, so for sure that is an area I am trying to steer the Asian Tour towards."
The Asian Tour has been largely shut out from the East Asian golfing powers of China, Korea and Japan since 2008, when those countries' professional golf associations threw their weight behind the rival OneAsia Tour. But struggling OneAsia has just three events confirmed on its 2017 calendar: the China Open, co-sanctioned with the European Tour, and two others in Korea.
2017 Asian Tour events in the East Asia region alone.
Confirmed OneAsia Tour events for the year.
"We are meeting the KPGA (Korean PGA) and definitely we are trying to add more tournaments in that market that is a golf- crazy market," said Burack, who took the reins as CEO last October.
"We have one tournament (in Korea) already, the Shinhan Donghae Open, but we'd love to have more tournaments there and we are working towards that.
"We have three tournaments in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, two in Japan, one in Korea, so we already have eight events (in East Asia).
"Now if we have four events in China and expand our presence in Korea, then for sure it will definitely increase the scale and prominence of our Tour."
China boasts only one player, Li Haotong, in the world's top 200 at present. But Burack said there was huge potential in the world's most populous nation.
"We're delighted to be coming back into China. We know there are so many talented players there. The CGA want a strong domestic Tour. They want it in the future to be as strong as the Japan Tour," he said.