Oct
29
2013
Sources: PGA Tour set to expand presence in China with formation of new pro circuit (*Update)
By Stephanie Wei under Asian Tour
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PGA Tour official Jonathan Yang (second to the left), VP Greg Gilligan (third from left) and Chinese Olympic Sports industry officials at the Presidents Cup

The PGA Tour is in close talks with the China Golf Association (CGA) and the Chinese government to form a partnership that would launch PGA Tour China, a new professional developmental circuit, according to sources in China with knowledge of the pending deal.

If realized, PGA Tour China would be structured similar to the collaboration made the last few years to form the PGA Tour Canada and PGA Tour Latinoamérica and serve as a pathway to the Web.com Tour, the pathway to playing in the bigs. The top-five finishers on the money list for PGA Tour China would also earn playing privileges to the PGA Tour’s developmental circuit, with the no. 1 player securing fully-exempt status and the other four getting some sort of conditional status.

While details are not yet entirely confirmed, the inaugural PGA Tour China 2014 schedule would include 10-11 12 tournaments spanning from March through November in various provinces throughout China.

A few weeks ago, CGA official Song LiangLiang posted the below screenshot on WeChat, a popular social networking platform in China, which appears to be an internal document that shows the pending schedule, along with the dates and locations of the events.

The caption roughly translates “How many people in China are there that really understand the PGA Tour? Don’t be fooled.”

WeChat via CGA official

Here is a blown up version of the schedule the official posted:

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Screenshot close-up of PGA Tour China schedule

The quality isn’t exactly great, but it’s good enough to show the dates, area and venue for the proposed new circuit.

From what I can decipher on the screenshot, this is the schedule in English. (Apologies for the imperfect formatting issue and please note that “March 3″ isn’t “March 3rd,” rather the “third week of March”.)

Screen Shot 2013-10-29 at 12.19.45 PM

When asked for comment via email, a PGA Tour media official replied that it had “no comment on this inquiry.”

In August, the Tour announced the hiring of a new Vice President, Greg Gilligan, to oversea the Tour businesses in China.

According to the press release, Gilligan is “an experienced executive who has been based in China the past 16 years, as Vice President, Managing Director of PGA TOUR’s affiliate in China, PGA TOUR (Beijing) Management Consulting Co Ltd. “In this newly created role, Gilligan will help the PGA TOUR to increase its efforts in China, which will include working cooperatively to support the continued growth of golf in China, deepening and broadening the PGA TOUR’s relationships and advancing the TOUR’s business throughout the country.”

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said in the statement: “We consider China to be an important market for golf and the PGA TOUR and believe this is the right time to make an increased commitment to the marketplace. We have a history of doing business in China, dating back to playing the World Cup in Shenzhen in 1995.  We know that establishing a consistent presence in Beijing will enhance our existing business relationships and help to establish new ones and we look forward to working with all stakeholders in growing the game of golf in China.”

The press release also noted the Tour’s established business interests in China — including its “collaborative relationship with the China Golf Association” — and its desire to expand them.

The creation of PGA Tour China would certainly fit that description.  Stay tuned…

*Update, November 2, 2013, 2:09pm local time: PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem is scheduled to hold a press conference on Sunday during the fourth round of the HSBC Champions.

*Update 2, November 2, 2013, 11:15pm local time: Press release distributed at host hotel…

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