Asian Tour chief Kyi Hla Han yesterday rebutted claims that he was jeopardizing players’ livelihoods by fining or banning members if they compete in this month’s Volvo China Open.
The controversial OneAsia Tour, which has taken over sanctioning of the China Open from the Asian Tour, said earlier this week that the move was at odds with pledges to maximize opportunities for golfers.
But Han said he was only following the rulebook, which says that his members cannot compete in a tournament or exhibition in the seven days immediately before or after an Asian Tour event.
“As the Ballantine’s Championship in Korea will be played on the Asian Tour schedule from April 23 to 26, which is within seven days of the Volvo China Open, the release policy is correctly being applied,” he told reporters.
The only Asians allowed to tee off in China are those who qualify through the European Tour, such as Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee, India’s Shiv Kapur and Chinese players like Liang Wenchong.
Han said the only way a player would be fined or banned was if they requested to play, were denied, and then went ahead.
“Exercising the release policy is common procedure amongst all Tours and OneAsia should be familiar with its applications,” he said, adding that OneAsia was sowing confusion by randomly inviting players to the China Open.
“For OneAsia to accuse the Asian Tour of punishing our members and jeopardizing their livelihoods is an ignorant attempt to discredit the Asian Tour and our success in enhancing our players’ careers,” he said.
He also said that OneAsia’s launch had created “untenable situations which are causing sponsors and promoters to rethink their positions which is having a negative effect on golf in Asia.”
OneAsia, formed by the China Golf Association, Korea Professional Golf Tour, Korea Golf Association and the PGA Tour of Australia, aims to create a new force in the golf world and will launch its season at the China Open.
Gaganjeet Bhullar, who has just qualified for the British Open and sits on the Asian Tour’s Tournament Players Committee, said Han was correct in applying the rules.
“I totally agree with the decision because the way OneAsia is dealing with the Asian Tour is not correct,” he said.