Majorly exciting

Updated: 2011-09-15 07:51

By Chen Xiangfeng (China Daily)

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Majorly exciting

Paul Casey of England (right) celebrates with his caddie after winning the 2011 Volvo Golf Champions at the Royal Golf Club in Rifaa, Bahrain, on Jan 30. Casey has confirmed he will take part in next year's Volvo China Open in April in Tianjin. [Photo/Agencies]

Volvo China Open will be in Tianjin next year as event looks to gain prestige, Chen Xiangfeng reports

It may not be a Major, but it's certainly a major event. Aiming to spread its reach further still, China's national golf championship will move to Tianjin next year. The Volvo China Open - begun in 1995 and part of The European Tour's international schedule since 2004 - used to be the exclusive domain of top-tier cites like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

In recent years, it's made its mark on smaller cities like Suzhou and Chengdu.

Now in its 18th year, the event is headed to Binhai Lake Golf Club.

It will be played from April 19-22, two weeks after the season's first Major - the Masters at Augusta, Ga.

Per Ericsson, president of Volvo Event Management, Golf believes the expansion of the tournament will help the sport grow in China.

"By taking the Volvo China Open to the northeastern port city of Tianjin, we are continuing our strategy of making the national open golf championship of China as accessible as possible to all parts of the country," Ericsson said.

"This year's field (in Chengdu) was truly worthy of China's national open with a record seven Chinese players making the cut. However, in our vision, the Volvo China Open is far from reaching its full potential.

"Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Suzhou, Chengdu - like the British Open, the Volvo China Open demands to be taken around the country.

"That's the reason (it) is on the move again."

The prize fund will again be 20 million yuan (about $3.1 million), with a first prize of 3.3million yuan (about $500,000)

Organizers hope the field will continue to improve, attracted by the prestige of a national open championship and exemptions to the Volvo World Match Play Championship and Volvo Golf Champions.

"Money isn't everything," Ericsson said. "Top players now want a shot at winning your open championship - prestige and a guaranteed place in Chinese golfing history."

The participation of star players is a huge attraction, though the full list will not be unveiled until early next year.

Defending champion, Nicolas Colsaerts, a Belgian and one of the biggest hitters on the circuit, is looking forward to attempting to become the first to win back-to-back Volvo China Open crowns.

Englishman Paul Casey, who reached No 3 in the world in 2009 and has 12 European Tour titles to his name, will be making his third appearance.

"I have always been made to feel most welcome and had a great time there having won two titles; the Volvo China Open and the TCL Classic. I will be going for a hat-trick of Chinese titles at Binhai Lake ... next April," Casey said.

Chinese No 1 Liang Wenchong will lead a contingent of local golfers working to become the first Chinese player to win the event since it joined the European Tour in 2004.