Asian Tour Chairman Kyi Hla Han said today the 2004 calendar includes a new event, the Carlsberg Masters Vietnam in Hanoi, and will see the return of the Tianjin TEDA Open in China after a lapse of four years and the ROC PGA Championship in Taipei.
Since its formation in January, the Asian Tour has staged seven events and began a bumper run of four tournaments in a row starting with this week’s inaugural Volkswagen Masters – China in Beijing.
The final chapter of the Asian PGA Tour was closed last month at the International Federation of PGA Tours meeting when its Executive Director Ramlan Haron formally announced that the Asian PGA was no longer the official sanctioning body for professional golf tournaments in the region, and endorsed the Asian Tour as the new sanctioning body.
The International Federation of PGA Tours agreed to provide world ranking points for all Asian Tour-sanctioned events and accepted the Asian Tour’s application to be part of the Federation.
Han said: “I have been working closely with our Chief Executive Louis Martin and we are delighted to announce our full schedule for 2004. By the time the season comes to a close in December, a minimum of 21 tournaments, with prize money of US$11.3 million would have been played. This will mark a new record for Asia,” said Myanmar’s Han.
“We have received a positive response from the market and have ongoing discussions with various sponsors and promoters for more tournaments which augurs well for the future of the Asian Tour and our playing membership.”
Asian Tour stalwarts such as Thongchai Jaidee, Jyoti Randhawa and Zhang Lian-wei will go head to head with leading international stars over the next few weeks. The US$300,000 Volkswagen Masters – China, headlining Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam and Phillip Price, got the ball rolling in Beijing today.
The Asian Tour will then head to the popular Macau Open, with Asia’s best, along with Zhang bidding for a record third title, and world number eight Padraig Harrington. Following this, the Asian Tour returns to the Middle Kingdom for the BMW Asian Open, a US$1.5 million event which will feature home hero Zhang, Korea’s Choi Kyung-ju, fresh from a third-place finish at the Masters and Australian legend Greg Norman. Harrington is the defending champion.
The BMW-backed event at Tomson Golf Club in Shanghai will be the first of two remaining events which will be jointly sanctioned by the Asian and European Tours this year.
The Asian Tour will head full-speed to Korea for the SK Telecom Open in Seoul from May 20-23 where Choi, better known as KJ, won last year’s title and will be defending again, before taking its traditional summer break.
The Asian Tour will resume with the US$175,000 ROC PGA Championship in Taipei in August, followed by the Tianjin TEDA Open in China, an event last staged in 1999.
Several other regular stops that will be featured on the Asian Tour include Mercuries Masters in Taiwan, the second staging of the Sanya Open in Hainan Island, China before heading to Hanoi for the inaugural US$200,000 Carlsberg Masters Vietnam at Chi Linh Star Golf and Country Club.
“It is tremendous that the Asian Tour will welcome a new event in Vietnam, which underlines the growth of the game across Asia. The return of the Tianjin event also reinforces China’s great leap in interest in the game as the Asian Tour will have five tournaments in the Middle Kingdom this year,” said Han.
The Hero Honda Masters in India, scheduled for the third week of November, will mark the start of the Asian Tour’s closing stretch. Subsequently, the Volvo China Open, which will offer US$1 million in prize money and jointly sanctioned by the Asian and European Tours for the first time, will be held, followed by the season-ending Volvo Masters of Asia.
“The Asian Tour was set up in January this year to ensure the future of playing professionals in Asia and the continued growth of golf in this region. We have received tremendous support from numerous sponsors, event promoters, national PGAs and golf associations who share the same vision as us which is to extensively promote the game with the intention of uplifting the standard of golf in Asia,” said Han.
2004 ASIAN TOUR SCHEDULE
Jan 22-25: Areeya Thailand Open, Royal Thai Air Force Club, Bangkok, US$300,000
Jan 29-Feb 1: Johnnie Walker Classic#, Alpine G&SC, Bangkok, US$1,600,000
Feb 12-15: Myanmar Open, Yangon Golf Club, US$200,000
Feb 19-22: Carlsberg Malaysian Open*, Saujana GCC US$1,210,000
Feb 26-29 DHL Philippine Open, Riviera GCC, Manila US$175,000
Mar 18-21: Caltex Masters Presented By Carlsberg, Singapore 2004*, Laguna National GCC, Singapore, US$900,000
Mar 25-28: Royal Challenge Indian Open, Delhi GC, US$300,000
April 29-May 2: Volkswagen Masters – China, Pine Valley GC, Beijing, China, US$300,000
May 6-9: Macau Open, Macau GCC, US$275,000
May 13 -16: BMW Asian Open*, Tomson GC, Shanghai, China, US$1,500,000
May 20-23: SK Telecom Open, Baekahmvista CC, Korea, US$400,000
Aug 5-8: ROC PGA Championship, Taipei GC, US$175,000
Aug 19-22: Tianjin TEDA Open, Tianjin Warner International GC, China, US$200,000
Sept 9-12: Kolon Korean Open, Woo Jung Hills, Korea, US$400,000
Sept 16-19: Mercuries Masters, Tamsui GCC, Taiwan, US$390,000
Oct 28-31: Sanya Open, Yalong Bay GC, China, US$200,000
Nov 4-7: Carlsberg Masters Vietnam, Chi Linh Star GCC, Hanoi, US$200,000
Nov 18-21: Hero Honda Masters, Course TBA, New Delhi, US$300,000
Nov 25-28: Volvo China Open*, Shanghai Silport GC, US$1,000,000
Dec 9-12: Volvo Masters of Asia, Course TBA, US$500,000
# Tri-sanctioned with European Tour and PGA Tour of Australasia.
* Joint-sanctioned with European Tour
TBA: To be announced
Note: The US$830,000 Okinawa Open, staged December 2003 and jointly sanctioned with the Japan Golf Tour Organisation, will also count towards the 2004 Asian Tour Order of Merit.