Saturday, March 15, 2008

Asian Tour rejects OneAsia

The Asian Tour rejected plans for a regional golf "super tour" on Friday after they were formally endorsed by Japan, Australia, China and South Korea.

Asian Tour chief executive Kyi Hla Han said the OneAsia project, designed to rival the European and US circuits, did not serve the region's best interests.

"Following a statement issued by the PGA of Australia this morning in regards to plans for an Asia-Pacific golf tour, the Asian Tour unequivocally states that we are not endorsing or participating in this initiative," he said in a statement.

"Plans to launch this new Asia-Pacific golf tour are being driven aggressively by the PGA of Australia, whose tour is diminishing, and the Asian Tour believes it does not serve the best interests and growth of professional golf in Asia," Kyi Hla added.

The Japan Golf Tour Organisation, China Golf Association, Korean Golf Association and the PGA of Australia earlier said they had reached agreement for the new tour with a planned launch in January.

The tour's backers reportedly envisaged an eventual 35-stop tour to rival the lucrative and hugely popular US PGA and European Tours, with existing circuits acting as feeders.

"In an effort to better promote the game of golf and take the game to a higher level in the Asia-Pacific region, each of the founding tours believe it is necessary to find a single regional organisation that can truly represent the common rights and benefits of relevant local golf bodies and their members," the groups said in a joint statement.

"The new tour will seek to bring together the best tournaments conducted throughout Asia-Pacific to create an alternative elite career pathway for national organisations and their aspiring professional golfers in the region."

Friday's joint statement said an interim board had been appointed to guide the creation and launch of the tour, consisting of representatives from each of the founding tours. A board chairman will be officially appointed shortly.

Australasian PGA Tour chief executive Ben Sellenger has trumpeted the plan, saying it will lift playing standards and attract more big stars to the region.

He has also said the initial target was to play 20 tournaments with a minimum purse of 1.5 million US dollars, although some tournaments would be worth twice that amount.

However Kyi Hla, who signalled reluctance to the plan in an AFP interview this month, said Asian Tour members "unanimously" did not want to be involved in the new initiative.

"Since the Asian Tour's formation as a players' organisation in 2004, the Asian Tour Schedule has expanded greatly where in 2008 we are poised to surpass 30 tournaments for the first time in Asian golf history and offer an unprecedented 40 million dollars in total prize money," he said.

"Elite and major golf tournaments already form the burgeoning Asian Tour Schedule and the Asian Tour firmly believe that we are on the correct pathway in developing, promoting and growing professional golf in Asia under the existing Tour structure," Kyi Hla said.

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