Thursday, March 13, 2008

OneAsia is officially on

The PGA Tour of Australia has joined forces with golf organisations in Japan, China and Korea to form a new Asian Tour.

The OneAsia Tour will include the top tournaments currently held in the Asia-Pacific, with the aim of producing an elite level of competition in the region.

Organisers hope to start the new tour in January next year.

The tour's backers have 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 bodies of the four countries 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."

The chief of the current Asian Tour, however, has signalled reluctance to sign up to the new tour, which is yet to be officially named but is being referred to as OneAsia.

Kyi Hla Han said the project to merge the Asian, Australasian and Japanese circuits into the OneAsia Tour was complex and may not benefit the present regional set-up.

Friday's joint statement said an interim board has 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 prize money purse of $US1.5 million, although some tournaments would be worth twice that amount.

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