Golf: China 'back in bed' and eager to work hand in hand with all the Tours, says Asian Tour CEO

Opening China's tournaments up to the likes of the PGA Tour, European Tour and Asian Tour will create a busy calendar in a country long viewed as a giant potential market, said Josh Burack, chief executive officer of the Asian Tour.
Opening China's tournaments up to the likes of the PGA Tour, European Tour and Asian Tour will create a busy calendar in a country long viewed as a giant potential market, said Josh Burack, chief executive officer of the Asian Tour.PHOTO: AFP

Hong Kong (AFP) - China has jumped "back in bed" with international golf federations in a bid to help the country's players flourish, according to the chief executive officer of Asia's leading Tour.

The move to open China's tournaments up to the likes of the PGA Tour, European Tour and Asian Tour will create a busy calendar in a country long viewed as a giant potential market, said Josh Burack, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Asian Tour.

"The China Golf Association (CGA) has actually welcomed all the Tours to come in and co-sanction (tournaments) with them because they've adopted a very universal approach - that they want to work with as many partners as possible," he told AFP at the Hong Kong Open.

"That's why you suddenly see them back in bed with the PGA Tour, you see them co-sanctioning events with European Tour and European Challenge Tour, and now we've come back in and have sanctioned events there again."

Burack added: "At the end of the day they, like us, need to create those playing opportunities for their players to flourish, and they're doing that now."

China has long been hailed as an important future market for golf and has produced players such as Zhang Lianwei, Liang Wenchong, Wu Ashun and Li Haotong, who have all won on the European Tour.

After a nine-year absence, the Asian Tour returns to mainland China next week in the city of Xiamen.

The Tour's 2018 schedule, released on Friday (Nov 24), includes at least two tournaments planned for the country.

The PGA Tour also announced last month that it would relaunch its own expansion Tour in China next year. The circuit will run alongside the China Tour, which was recently created by the China Golf Association.

It is all a far cry from a time when the country banned golf under Mao Zedong, who considered it elitist.

"There was a period a few years back where there was a lot of news about the Chinese government trying to rein in golf and expenditure with their officials," said Burack. "I think that has passed now.

"Golf is definitely on the move in China."

China's domestic golf season finishes next weekend at the Asian Golf Championship in Xiamen. The tournament will include Chinese players such as Zhang - currently competing at the Hong Kong Open - and marks the Asian Tour's return to the mainland after it was shut out by the rival OneAsia tour in 2009.

With Beijing continuing to tighten rules on overseas investment - a measure which has hit big-spending tycoons eyeing up Premier League football clubs, among others - it was not clear how far the boom in golf tournaments across China was being driven by Chinese Communist Party officials at the very top.

"What I can say is the CGA is definitely very empowered to create events," said Burack. "There isn't that reluctance perhaps as there was in the past... now there's a big push for them to have more events."

He added: "They've done a very good job of using the power they have to create the most tournaments."