China / Society

Golfing drive poised to tee off in 2nd-tier cities

By Zhu Wenqian (China Daily) Updated: 2016-06-20 07:33

Golfing drive poised to tee off in 2nd-tier cities

Zhang Xinjun was the third-highest earner on the PGA Tour China Series last year, with 545,046 yuan ($82,952).[Photo provided to China Daily]

The PGA Tour, a US organizer of top professional golf tournaments, is planning to expand its presence to second-tier Chinese cities, despite a domestic austerity campaign that has cooled enthusiasm for the sport.

It plans to move into cities in Jiangsu, Shandong, Yunnan, Hainan and Fujian provinces, according to Gregory Gilligan, Greater China managing director of PGA Tour Inc.

It will offer a "very active golf market" and many potential players, Gilligan said.

He said that in the next 10 to 20 years, many people in China with the interest and ability will be looking to get involved in golf.

"China is in the early stages of developing golf. We have started to see some momentum in the country, and we are bullish about long-term growth."

Gilligan said the Chinese anti-graft campaign has slowed the golf market, but optimism has been voiced recently for corporate sponsorships for PGA Tour events.

The Ping An Bank China Tour, part of the PGA Tour China Series, has announced five of 12 proposed tournaments for this year.

They include the Henan Open in Zhengzhou; the United Investment Real Estate Open in Wuhan, Hubei; the Cadillac Championship in Chengdu, Sichuan; and the Nanjing Open in Jiangsu.

It is the second season that Ping An Bank has been a sponsor for the PGA Tour China Series.

Feng Jie, the bank's vice-president, said, "We hope to advance the growth of golf by setting up a better platform for domestic and foreign golfers to interact, to help Chinese golfers to compete internationally, and to contribute to the development of the Chinese sports industry."

Last year, between 1 million and 1.1 million people played golf in China, and there were 390,000 "core golfers", defined as those playing the game at least eight times a year.

However, the number of regular players fell by 5 percent from 2014, according to a white paper published in March by the Forward Group, a specialist golf management company based in Shenzhen, Guangdong province.

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