MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Australian golf officials support a new OneAsia Super Series, which has divided opinion in the region, because the schedule will likely involve about 20 tournaments by 2011, each offering at least $1.5 million in prize money.
“This … is just the first step in creating an elite platform of golf that runs from Delhi through to Auckland,” commissioner Ben Sellenger of the Australian PGA Tour said Tuesday in a tour newsletter.
“It’s a platform that will sit above and complement the regional tours … and give the players from all the bodies involved the chance to compete on a tour that’s a genuine alternative to the (U.S.) PGA and European tours.”
Sellenger said he was confident the 2011 OneAsia schedule, which would take in tournaments from the Australasian, Japanese, Korean and Chinese tours and become the world’s third-largest golf tour, would involve at least 20 tournaments.
He said it would allow players from each country the chance to remain active on their respective home tours. At least 16 Australasian PGA Tour players will be eligible as part of a minimum 76-strong Asia-Pacific contingent in a field of 156.
Sellenger, who has moved to Singapore to coordinate the new program, said he hoped to add to the six tournaments announced this year.
The Asian Tour, which sanctions golf on the continent, opposes the OneAsia series and has been critical of the Australasian PGA’s motives in establishing it.
The Japanese tour backed away from joining the OneAsia series this year but plans to join next year, potentially increasing the number of events to 12 or 14 for 2010.
The six tournaments announced for 2009 are scheduled to start with the $2.9 million China Open next month, and include the Australian Open and Australian PGA, two other events in China and the Korean Open.
Golf Australia chief executive officer Stephen Pitt reaffirmed his support for the OneAsia series.
“We believe in the concept and we are genuinely excited about the benefits we believe the OneAsia Series will deliver, not just to the Australian Open, but also to golf in the Asia-Pacific region,” Pitt said in a Golf Australia media release.
The Asian Tour has been opposed to a rival continental golf series and initially sought clarification on the involvement of Chinese events it sanctions.
“The Asian Tour is shocked and disapproves of this desperate attempt by the PGA of Australia to revive its flagging domestic circuit, through its proposed creation of a series by listing events which are already part of the Asian Tour schedule,” Asian Tour executive chairman Kyi Hla Han said in the statement earlier this year.
The Asian Tour, the successor to the Asian PGA first played in 1995, will sanction 28 tournaments across the region in 2009, with 16 of them co-sanctioned by either the European Tour or the Japanese, Korean, Indian or Australasian tours.
The increased presence of the European Tour in Asia had created friction in recent years, as the Asian Tour seeks to assert itself in the region, while it had also sought co-operation with the powerful national tours across north Asia.