PGA Tour revives China development circuit amid boom

China's Dou Zecheng secured his PGA Tour card for the 2017-18 season earlier this year and hopes to make his mark in the US.
China's Dou Zecheng secured his PGA Tour card for the 2017-18 season earlier this year and hopes to make his mark in the US.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SHANGHAI • There could soon be more Chinese playing on the world's richest golf circuit after the United States-based PGA Tour announced the relaunch of its China developmental tour yesterday.

PGA Tour China will begin again next year and is designed to provide a pathway for Chinese players to the PGA Tour via the second-tier Web.com Tour in the United States.

Golf is booming in China and Dou Zecheng and Zhang Xinjun recently became the first players from the country to earn their PGA Tour playing cards.

The PGA Tour China Series began in 2014 as a route for Chinese prospects hoping to earn their PGA Tour cards and to help develop the sport in the country.

But that pathway - taken by Dou, Zhang and other rising stars in China - was ruptured this year amid suggestions of a disagreement behind the scenes between the USPGA and China Golf Association (CGA).

Any problems have been overcome and PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan yesterday said: "PGA Tour China will provide players a path to the PGA Tour through the Web.com Tour with the top-five money winners earning 2019 Web.com Tour membership.

"In addition, there will be at least 15 additional players who will have access to the latter stages of the Web.com Tour qualifying tournament."

Greg Gilligan, managing director of PGA Tour Greater China, added: "We are very happy to again operate in 2018 and beyond.

"Sport is undergoing reform in China, and we think it is an important and positive reform.

"We have enjoyed our longstanding partnership with the CGA and are especially thrilled that it will continue as both entities seek to grow the game in China."

Li Haotong, 22, is China's highest ranked player at world No. 66.

The CGA said the initiative will help China's prospects of glory at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and is in line with a government drive to improve the health and fitness of its people. Beginning in the spring of next year, each event will offer an increased prize purse of at least 1.5 million yuan (S$308,000).

The PGA Tour also runs similar circuits for Latin America and Canada.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2017, with the headline 'PGA Tour revives China development circuit amid boom'. Print Edition | Subscribe