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Asian PGA Tour unveil 2005 schedule

The first half of the 2005 Asian Tour Schedule will include groundbreaking stops in Brunei and Qatar plus a new U.S. $1.25 million full-field event in China, its Chief Executive Louis Martin said today.

Martin announced a 14-event schedule for the opening six months of its 2005 calendar where Asia's talented cast will shoot for total prize money of U.S. $11.5 million. This is a massive increase on the 2004 first half which offered U.S. $8 million.

The rapid development of golf in China is underlined with the establishment of the inaugural CGA Championship from June 2-5. The new event will offer a record prize fund of U.S. $1.25 million, making it the most lucrative full-field Asian Tour event in the Middle Kingdom and will be held at Grand Ipoch (Top City) Golf Club in Beijing.

Brunei's first national Open will see the Asian Tour breaking new ground in the oil-rich Sultanate. The U.S. $300,000 Brunei Open will be staged at Empire Hotel and Country Club in Bandar Seri Begawan from June 30-July 3 where the full-field event will bring the first half of the season to a close.

The U.S. $830,000 Okinawa Open, jointly sanctioned with the Japan Golf Tour Organisation, will tee off the new season at Naha Golf Club later this December.

The U.S. $1.5 million Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club will also join the Asian Tour Schedule for the first time next March. Established in 1998 as a European Tour event, the organisers have invited the Asian Tour to co-sanction the tournament in view of the upcoming Asian Games which Doha will host in 2006.

"We are delighted to announce the first half of the 2005 Asian Tour schedule, which will include new and exciting events in Brunei, China and Qatar. The CGA Championship is a landmark development as it will be the richest full-field Asian Tour tournament in professional golf history in Asia. The Brunei Open is another significant development as it will be the first professional event in the Sultanate," said Martin.

"The Asian Tour will conclude its 2004 schedule next week with its 22nd event, the season-ending Volvo Masters of Asia. With total prize money of U.S. $12.3 million, we believe it has been a tremendous season for our organisation.

"We are growing stronger and we can expect to surpass our inaugural year with more new events offering more prize money for our players in 2005."

Following the Qualifying School which is scheduled over two weeks in mid-January, the Asian Tour will resume with the U.S. $1 million Caltex Masters, Presented by Carlsberg, Singapore, jointly sanctioned with the European Tour, from January 27-30. Scotland's Colin Montgomerie will defend his title with Ryder Cup teammate Lee Westwood also in the field.

The Tour travels to Bangkok for the US$300,000 Thailand Open the following week. This year, Thai veteran Boonchu Ruangkit played his way into the history books, becoming the oldest winner in Asia at the age of 47 years.

The U.S. $1.21 million Carlsberg Malaysian Open will take its traditional place on the schedule in the third week of February, followed by the U.S. $200,000 Myanmar Open. Thai star Thongchai Jaidee won both events earlier this year.

Subsequently, the Qatar Masters will be the focus of attention in mid-March, followed by the Indian Open from March 24-27. The Tour will then spend three weeks in China from mid-April.

The Visa Dynasty Cup, a Ryder Cup-style showdown between Japan and the rest of Asia, will take place at Mission Hills Golf Club in Shenzhen, followed by the tri-sanctioned U.S. $2 million Johnnie Walker Classic at Beijing's Pine Valley Golf Club. The U.S. $1.5 million BMW Asian Open, jointly sanctioned with the European Tour, takes its slot at Tomson Pudong Golf Club in Shanghai in the fourth week of April.

The popular Macau Open and Korea's top two tournaments, the SK Telecom Open and Maekyung Open will bolster the schedule in May.

Of the 14 events, six are jointly sanctioned with the European Tour. Martin said that the Asian Tour's Board of Directors has agreed that the co-sanction programme has reached a 'saturation' point.

Martin added that he had held discussions with European Tour Executive Director-designate George O'Grady in Shanghai last week on the way forward with future co-sanction events.

"We need to create and maintain a balance. Our focus now is to offer new playing opportunities for our members through the establishment of full-field events such as the Brunei Open and CGA Championship.

"There is no question that we are close to saturation point with what we term as the normal co-sanction events. One must look at 36-hole venues which will be able to host two full fields so that we can create bigger playing fields in any new co-sanction venture," said Martin.

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