PGA Tour engages agency for return of China series

The PGA Tour has signed a long-term partnership with Chinese agency Shankai Sports that will aid the return of its PGA Tour China Series next year.

Having announced in October that the developmental series would return in 2018 after a year’s hiatus, the PGA Tour has now engaged Shankai for a 20-year period from 2018. The PGA Tour China Series was held from 2014 through 2016 and will resume with qualifying schools next month.

Beijing-based Shankai will manage the day-to-day operations of the series in partnership with the PGA Tour. The Series will continue to reward the top five on its money list with membership of the Web.com Tour, the path to the PGA Tour, and with additional benefits for the next 15 players.

After 12 events in its first two years and 13 in 2016, PGA Tour China’s 2018 series will feature 14 events with purses of RMB1.5m (€195,000/$226,000), 25 per cent higher than in the first three years.

Shankai has also announced it is embarking on its new venture boosted by a RMB300m investment from private equity firms Yao Capital and IDG Capital.

Hong Li, chairwoman and co-founder of Shankai Sports, which also has offices in Lausanne and Zurich in Switzerland, said: “Working with PGA Tour China and managing the series as part of the path to the PGA Tour is a huge responsibility and one we’re determined to fulfil. Shankai Sports has worked with many of the world’s leading sports organisations and we always feel a duty to do our best and help raise the profile of sport in China.

“Operating the PGA Tour Series-China is a major undertaking and we’re delighted to be starting this new era with the backing of major financial players like Yao Capital and IDG Capital, who have vast experience of supporting companies with potential for major growth.”

The Reuters news agency said Shankai will pay an undisclosed sum to the PGA Tour to operate its China series. The resurrection of the series comes after a period in which the golf market in China has stagnated amid a state crackdown on corruption in sport.

In January, China’s government ordered the closure of more than 100 golf courses in a multi-year campaign launched in 2011 to address illegal development in the sector. The PGA Tour has also faced issues in the country after its three-year partnership with the China Golf Association expired in 2016.

“We had some differences of opinions, tried to work through those, and decided to reform and reorganise,” PGA Tour Greater China managing director Greg Gilligan told Reuters. He added that the decision to bring in Shankai was driven by “the size of the opportunity and the complexity of doing things here [in China]”.