Chinese authorities have stonewalled PGA Tour China’s attempts to host tournaments for its upcoming season, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
The four-year-old developmental tour, which last year featured a dozen events, appears to be peril after what the report termed a “falling out” between the PGA Tour and its partners, the China Golf Association and promotion firm China Olympics Sports Industry Ltd.
“We’re stuck moving forward,” Greg Gilligan, managing director of the PGA Tour China, told the newspaper. “There’s a lack of clarity over how to get approved.”
Although the impasse isn’t necessarily a direct reflection of the overall golf climate in China, the country has a tumultuous relationship with golf. The sport was banned in 1949, experienced a renaissance under new government leadership in the 1980s and is now in a state of flux with nearly 200 golf courses reportedly having been closed amid President Xi Jinping’s campaign against corruption. The country of nearly 1.4 billion people has perhaps no more than 3 million golfers, Gilligan said.
However, professional golf has continued to thrive in China. The European and LPGA tours each host two events there this season and the Asian Tour has plans to play in the country next season. The WGC-HSBC Champions event is also played in Shanghai each fall.
The PGA Tour ended its three-way partnership last year with the CGA and COSI due to concerns over lack of planning for this season, Gilligan said. The CGA has said it is now working with COSI to stage its own tournaments independent of the PGA Tour.
The PGA Tour hasn’t lost hope for staging tournaments this year. The Tour can possibly get a “higher authority” or provincial-level officials to approve the events, Gilligan said. That would mean bypassing the CGA, which has asserted authority over tournament approvals.
Last year’s PGA Tour China season began on May 9.