March 17, 2017 / 9:58 AM / 5 months ago

Golf - Asian Tour returns to China, plans four events this year

REUTERS - The Asian Tour will return to China for the first time since 2008 with up to four new events planned in 2017 in a "game changer" partnership with the China Golf Association, the continental body said on Friday.

The partnership will be a threat to the future of the breakaway OneAsia circuit, which was established in 2009 with a joint venture between the PGA Tour of Australasia, the CGA, the Korean Golf Association and the Korean PGA.

The Asian Tour previously co-sanctioned and staged tournaments with the CGA from 1995 until 2008 before the OneAsia circuit began.

"Re-starting cooperation is a game changer for the Asian Tour and CGA," chief executive Josh Burack said in a statement.

"The creation of new tournaments will greatly enhance playing opportunities for our players and for the many talented players coming up from China."

The prize purses for the new events will be between $300,000 and $500,000, with further expansion planned from next year.

Winners of these new co-sanctioned tournaments in China will also earn their exemption on the Asian Tour under the winner's category.

"I started my career on the Asian Tour and it has given me lots of opportunities to grow and improve as a player," said veteran Chinese golfer Zhang Lian-wei, who is a CGA committee member and board member of the Asian Tour.

"I'm confident this partnership will grow from strength to strength which will ultimately go a long way towards promoting the development of golf in China."

Reporting by Shravanth Vijayakumar in Bengaluru; editing by Sudipto Ganguly

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