China Plans Pro Golf Tour

The China Golf Association has announced it will start its first professional golf tour to nurture the game in the world’s most populous nation. The association hopes to use the country’s talent pool of 1.3 billion people to produce Chinese golf champions. The country is also pursuing excellence in sports ranging from weightlifting to Formula 1 racing.

"The future for golf in China – the real, long-term future – is not paying large sums to bring the world's superstars to play here. It is creating our own stars," Jiang Xiuyun, the association’s executive vice president, said in a prepared statement.

The China Golf Tour will hold four events this year – each with a $100,000 purse. Two events will be added each year so that there will be at least 10 events in 2008.

The association will spend $8 million to launch the new golf tour. It has entered into a five-year deal with the Singapore-based sports marketing giant World Sports Group (WSG), which will organize the events.

The inaugural event will be held August 17-19 at the Elephant Golf Club in Beijing, the association said. It added that other events this year are slated for September, October and November at locations to be announced.

China's most prominent golf pro is Zhang Lianwei, who became the first Chinese winner of a European Tour event when he beat Ernie Els by one stroke at the 2003 Singapore Masters.

"We need to create more stars that we ourselves can be proud of, stars that the Chinese people will flock to see and stars that will eventually play among the world's top golfers in the world's top tournaments," Jiang said.