LPGA forges Alisports alliance for Chinese event

The Ladies Professional Golf Association has signed a 10-year deal with Alisports that will result in the division of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba owning an LPGA tournament held annually in mainland China.

The tournament will be part of the LPGA’s fall Asian swing and will be on the Tour’s schedule in late September or early October, starting from next year. The event owned by Alisports will be held in conjunction with the China Golf Association and the China LPGA Tour. The tournament is initially scheduled to be played at Reignwood Pine Valley in Changping District, which has previously hosted the LPGA Classic three times from 2013-2016. Alisports served as the presenting sponsor of the 2016 edition of this tournament.

LPGA chief commercial officer Jon Podany said: “Securing the LPGA’s presence in China will facilitate the continued growth of the game’s popularity amongst the more than 1.3 billion people living here over the next decade and beyond. Alisports’ digital reach will allow our players and events to be broadcast to millions of new fans and help build the next generation of golf talent around the world.”

The LPGA said that in addition to holding tournaments, Alisports will also develop business in facilities, e-commerce, youth training and sports tourism to provide customers with an “all-around sports service”.

Alisports chief executive Zhang Dazhong said: “We share a vision with LPGA to have the mainland China event become one of the very best tournaments on the LPGA schedule and also worldwide. We expect Chinese women’s golf will make a rapid growth in the next decade.”

Shanshan Feng, the highest ranked Chinese player at No. 12 in the Women’s World Golf Rankings, became the first player from China to join the LPGA Tour in 2008. In 2012, Feng’s win at the 2012 LPGA Championship made her the first Chinese golfer to win on the LPGA Tour and the only golfer from China to win a major championship.

The LPGA’s first visit to China came in 2008 at the Grand China Air LPGA in Haikou, Hainan Island. In 2016, the LPGA held two tournaments in China as part of the Tour’s six-tournament fall Asian swing.