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Japanese players to form new PGA

TOKYO -- After months of unsuccessful negotiations, Japan's professional golfers announced that they are breaking away from the PGA of Japan to form a new, independent PGA Tour of Japan.

The new organisation will be led by former PGA Tour of Japan commissioner Kosaku Shimada and has the support of the Golf Tournament Promotion Association (GT ), an organisation made up of tournament sponsors, and the Japan Tour Players Club (JTPC).

The current JPGA Tour consisted of two divisions: teaching pros and tournament players, similar to the makeup of the PGA of America before the tour players broke off to form the Tournament Players Division in 1968, which would eventually become today's PGA Tour.

"The tournament players division has recently become larger and more complicated," said Michio Torii, chief director of the GT . "It was necessary to establish a tour organization dedicated to the operation and management of this division, one which could integrate the operation of management, organisers and players."

Also involved in the new organization is former player Tommy Nakajima, a JTPC committee member, who has attempted to contact all tournament players to assure them that the new tour has the full support of the tournament sponsors.

According to officials, the new tour will consist of approximately 27 tournaments, and is scheduled to begin in March. Players will be free to play in JPGA-sponsored events, but any money won in those events will not be official.

The Japan Open will remain a Japan Golf Association event, as will the Kirin Open, which is jointly-sponsored by the Japan Golf Association and the Asian Tour. The fate of the Japan Match Play and PGA Philanthropy events, two tournaments run by the JPGA Tour, is not known at this time.

Officials also said a new qualifying system will be established and announced sometime in the future, but all players will be eligible to play in 1999 tournaments based on their rankings at the end of 1998.