Asian Golf Tour Severs Ties with 'Super Series'

On March 12 from Singapore, Asian Tour chief Kyi Hla Han severed ties with the "super series" of Asia-Pacific golf tournaments, accusing organizers of being "unprofessional and unethical."

His decision came as the Japan Tour questioned why the series was in such a hurry to launch, saying it had sown confusion with many issues still unresolved.

Tensions have been simmering since the OneAsia Super Series was announced in January by the Australian PGA, the China Golf Association, the Korea Golf Association and the Korea PGA. The Asian Tour claimed it was not consulted and said the Australians, who have been the driving force behind the move, had breached the spirit of the game. The Japan Tour subsequently pulled out of this year's events.

Talks between the Australian PGA, Asian Tour and Japan Tour at the Johnnie Walker Classic in Perth last month ended in stalemate and Han's patience has run out. "I will be very clear: we do not recognize OneAsia at all," the executive chairman told AFP.

"The way they have gone about it is unprofessional and unethical. No one really knows what the player criteria is or what the TV platform is. I think the sponsors are upset. What they have done is to the detriment of the game in Asia. We have had to put a lot of things on hold because of the fiasco they have created. As far as I'm concerned it's now a closed book. We don't want to be associated with unprofessionalism."

The "super series" is due to begin in April with the first of six tournaments, three of which were previously Asian Tour events. Han repeated that he thought the concept was good, but only if there were new tournaments with new sponsors. "They should stop taking tournaments away from us. That is unacceptable, it is unethical," he said.

Japan Tour officials are particularly concerned because one of the events now in the OneAsia stable is the Pine Valley Beijing Open, which used to be an event they co-sanctioned. Last year, Pine Valley featured 60 Japanese players, but this year just six invitations have been issued, something that has not gone down well.

"We don't know what is going on, we're confused," Japan Tour chief secretary Andy Yamanaka told AFP.

Despite initially signing a memorandum of understanding to be part of OneAsia, which has been under discussion for several years, Yamanaka made clear they would not be involved in 2009. "There is no way we are taking part this year, that is unchangeable," he said. "We strongly feel that the Asian Tour's involvement is imperative. We don't understand why they are in such a hurry. We're disappointed."

Few details have been released about the inaugural China Open from April 16-19, but PGA of Australia Tour Commissioner Ben Sellenger said they were working furiously behind the scenes to ensure everything was ready. "Everything is going ahead as planned," Sellenger told AFP, adding that an all-important television platform was in place for the first two events with negotiations ongoing to find a permanent partner, without elaborating.

"We don't want to create another Asian Tour, we want to do something bigger," he said. "We have still got six elite tournaments. 2009 has always been a stepping stone but we hope to announce at least two to three more events this year which should go up to 15 next year and ultimately 25 plus a year."

Sellenger added that prize money would be variable this year but they were aiming for a benchmark of $1 million per event, which he expects to grow significantly in the future as more sponsors come aboard.