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Volvo China Open to be more "Open"

The Volvo China Open will take on a more "Open" stance this year with pre-qualifying to be held for the first time in the Championship's 11-year history.

This year's Volvo China Open will be played at Shenzhen Golf Club from November 24-27 where prize money has been increased by US$300,000 to a lucrative US$1.3 million.

In line with entry procedures with that of The Open Championship and the US Open, organisers of the Volvo China Open said eight spots will be made available to Chinese golfers in pre-qualifying this year.

Richtone Worldwide managing director Alistair Polson, whose company is the event promoter, said the move will give non-exempt Chinese players the opportunity to shoot for one of Asia 's richest prize pots and be a part of their national Open.

In 2006, plans are underway to open the pre-qualifying to an international field.

"Last year, the Volvo China Open took a massive step forward by being jointly sanctioned for the first time by the Asian Tour and European Tour. This propelled the Volvo China Open onto the global stage with extensive worldwide television coverage.

"As the Championship of the world's most populous nation, we feel the time has come for us to truly be an Open Championship and give non-exempt players the opportunity to qualify and play in the Volvo China Open.

"With eight places available from qualifying, we are confident this move will spark a greater drive amongst Chinese golfers to raise the bar and our ultimate goal and reward would be to see one of the local qualifiers rising to the occasion and winning the Volvo China Open," said Polson today.

Regional qualifying will be held in Shanghai , Beijing and Nansha respectively in October with the leading 36 players from each venue (total 108 players) moving forward to the Final Qualifying at Shanghai Silport Golf Club, which will take place the week prior to the Volvo China Open.

At the Final Qualifying, eight spots are available for the Volvo China Open and professional players who make it through are eligible to share a prize fund of US$8,000. The leading amateur will receive a miniature crystal replica of the Volvo China Open trophy.

Polson said the pre-qualifying will be open to male and female professional golfers, who must be residents in the mainland, as well as amateurs with a USGA handicap index of up to 8.0.

Last year, Stephen Dodd claimed a thrilling victory at Shanghai Silport Golf Club to become the 10th Volvo China Open champion. Subsequently, the quiet Welshman has produced another victory on the European Tour, claiming the recent Irish Open.

A field of 144 players will feature in the Volvo China Open this November, with players made up from the Asian Tour and European Tour, China Golf Association, sponsors' invites and the qualifying places.

Volvo was the first sponsor of professional golf in China , launching the Volvo China Open in 1995 with close cooperation with the China Golf Association and Richtone Worldwide. It plays an irreplaceable role in the 20-year history of golf in China and was the first to create a 72-hole Open competition named after the nation. The advent of China 's national Open has also cultivated world-class golfers in China and Asia such as Zhang Lian-wei, Cheng Jun and Liang Wen-chong.


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