Finchem Is Bullish on China Shopping
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Tim Finchem: Chinese sponsors, come to America!

As he did last year, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem is traveling around Asia for ten days to boost his relationship with the China Golf Association, hoping to add more tournaments, according to the AP. With the HSBC Champions as a World Golf Championship event for the second year, the Tour decided it will count as an official PGA Tour victory if the winner is a PGA Tour member. Sounds like a way to encourage more American players to travel overseas because in the next ten years, they might be doing more of it — a la the LPGA.

Via the AP report:

“We’ll be meeting with some entities about a couple of tournaments we’re looking at in China in a couple of years,” Finchem said last week. “We’ll also be meeting in China with groups from two or three other countries about additional activities.

“We will be playing some more,” he said. “It’s premature to characterize it as what it will be. In today’s world, there’s lots of different ways for it to happen. If it’s a reasonably sized event, sanctioned appropriately, it can get world ranking points.”

In Finchem-speak, they’re looking to expand the multilayer world tour platform, which, of course, will just make things more complicated. But why does the Tour want to do business with China? Simple: $$$!!!

Companies increasing their quota for sponsorship dollars is a growing trend. A WSJ report says, “Asian golf tournaments awarded approximately $69 million in 2009–20% of golf’s total global prize pool of $343 million and more than the $56 million in total spoils at European golf events.” What’s more, this year, corporate sponsorship in Asia is estimated to total $2.5 billion, a 67% increase from last year.

Bottom line: There’s a flourishing pool of sponsorship dollars in Asian corporations and there’s also a growing interest in golf.

China’s golf infrastructure is just developing. I have to double-check these numbers, but there are 1.3 billion people in China and only 500 golf courses. Meanwhile, the US has 300 million people and 20,000 courses. Jack Nicklaus and Annika Sorenstam have expanded their design business to China because that’s where there’s plenty of work and money.

With golf being added to the Olympics, you don’t think the Chinese want to win those medals, too? The Chinese want to be the best at everything. The NBA has Yao Ming, and with over a billion people, there’s gotta be golf’s equivalent — and probably more than just one since height and athleticism aren’t such strong determinants for success.

And I thought my Mandarin Chinese skills would go to waste when I embarked on this career! (This is a “You were right, Mom” moment. When I was a kid, she always told me that speaking Chinese would come in handy. I mean, I guess there are over a billion just in China that speak it.)

So if the Tour is headed for more events in the Far East, I’m all for it. Now I also wouldn’t mind a minuscule percentage of those abundant sponsorship dollars for WUP. Just sayin’.