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October 25, 2017
CHUAH CHOO CHIANG: Very good morning, everyone, and welcome to the World Golf Championships - HSBC Champions at Sheshan International Golf Club.
My name is Chuah Choo Chiang from the PGA TOUR, and it is my great pleasure to welcome and introduce to you the gentlemen who are seated next to me.
On my immediate left, Mr. Xinjun Zhang, PGA TOUR member from China. Next to Zhang is PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan. And it is my pleasure as well to introduce to you the president of China Golf Association, Mr. Zhang Xiaoning. Next to Mr. Zhang is also a PGA TOUR member, Dou Zecheng from China.
Thank you for hosting all of us at the WGC-HSBC Champions this week. I would like to invite you now to give your opening remarks.
ZHANG XIAONING: Ladies and gentlemen, and also Mr. Monahan, and also our media friends, welcome to our press conference here. October 18 starts major and historic moment for our country, and has emphasised that we are establishing a nationwide fitness programme to enhance the health and development of our country, and also be ready for the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics, as well.
As the enhancement of our sports industry, and also our sports culture in the country, we are hoping to fulfill a better living style, lifestyle, towards our country residence and citizens. As the sport of golf is categorized at the most influential sport in the 21st century, especially in Chinese golf development, it has great potential in an up-and-coming and rising time for the sport here.
We do believe that the sport of golf will make China not only be one of the strongest nations and countries in the world, but also to move forward into a better sports performance here with a better power, enhancing the development of sports in China.
Thinking back four years ago to November 3, 2013 is the moment where we were hosting the WGC - HSBC Champions in Shanghai, as well, I had the great opportunity to join hands with the ex-PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem as he hoped to announce the launch of the PGA TOUR China series there. And today, I'm honoured and happy to announce that I'll be joining hands with Mr. Monahan in launching the PGA China Tour 2018.
The CGA will be working closely with the PGA TOUR to provide a better platform for our China professional golfers with more resources and more support. We are launching the PGA TOUR China next year in 2018.
These will be brand new tournaments compared to the past ones, providing players with more opportunity to participate, as well as to establish a route for China golfers to get through and into the world stage of golf and to have more experience in participating and also to have better opportunity in gaining Olympic qualification.
The development of golf tournaments here is not only helping the Tour itself, but also to help China to develop better and more professional golfers and to raise the interest of our citizens to the sport of golf. Obviously for the past two years, China has even two golfers have major impact on golf around the world.
Obviously this year is also a major year for Chinese golf, particularly the men's golfers in China has received a lot of attention and also have achieved a lot of goals. Going back to April, Liang Wen-Chong has claimed a victory on the Japan Tour and July, Li Haotong become the best-finishing Chinese golfer in The Open Championship history.
At the end of July, he has claimed a victory at Web.com Tour, and he has become the first Chinese player to do so. And more importantly, to be able to witness our rising stars in Chinese golf, they have they have PGA TOUR cards, as well, and we are hoping for better results for them in this year's PGA TOUR season.
It is a good outcome for Chinese golfers, not only from their stellar performance, but also more opportunity for them to participate in different tournaments and to gain enough experience in order to achieve better on the international level.
More Chinese golfers are looking forward to receiving better opportunity to compete against the best in the world, and also gain more experience participating in tournaments and better help prepare China in the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The revolution of sports that we are experiencing right now, China golf is developing in a very rapid status, and we are hoping for a better future in China golf development.
With a new development idea of sports development, to not only improve better lifestyle of our Chinese citizens, but also the development in sports and in particular the development of the sport of golf in China will make China a better sports country.
Last but not least, we want to thank the PGA TOUR for working with the Chinese Golf Association and we wish Dou Zecheng and Zhang Xinjun to have bright futures in the upcoming tournaments and we hope to see more and more China golfers getting on to the PGA TOUR.
We wish you the best of luck in the upcoming PGA TOUR China in 2018.
CHUAH CHOO CHIANG: That you, Mr. Zhang.
Jay, welcome back to China and for the first World Golf Championships event of the 2017-2018 PGA TOUR season, the HSBC Champions.
Please, can you share your opening statements with us and elaborate further on this exciting news about the PGA TOUR China 2018 and beyond.
COMMISSIONER MONAHAN: Let me start by saying it's a pleasure to be here in China, particularly at this major and historic moment for this great country and for the great game of golf.
I was here last year for the HSBC Champions, while I was still Deputy Commissioner, and it's my great privilege to be back here this year as Commissioner of the PGA TOUR.
This event continues to grow in stature and is the most significant golf tournament held in China. We appreciate the continued support of HSBC and all it does for this tournament, and to Sheshan International Golf Club which has hosted this tournament so well for so many years.
HSBC has been a great sponsor of this World Golf Championships event and we value their partnership, not only here in China but throughout the world. HSBC has always shown a strong commitment to golf, whether it's sponsoring the HSBC Champions, The Open Championship, the HSBC Women's Champions, or Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on The European Tour. HSBC continues to assist us in growing the golf worldwide and I would like to thank Nicola Crowther for her great support.
We are truly excited with the launch of PGA TOUR China in 2018 with our partners China Golf Association, with an increased number of events from our schedule in 2016.
Each event will offer a prize purse of at least 1.5 million RMB. As is the case with all PGA TOUR international development tours, the PGA TOUR China will provide players a path to the PGA TOUR through the Web.com Tour, with the top five money winners earning 2019 Web.com Tour membership.
In addition, there will be at least 15 additional players who will have access to the latter stages of the Web.com Tour qualifying tournament. With great sincerity, it's my privilege to acknowledge Mr. Zhang and his team at the CGA for their collaboration and efforts to further grow the game here in China through PGA TOUR China.
I'd also like to recognise the great efforts of Greg Gilligan, managing director of PGA TOUR China, and also our partners, Shanghai Sports and i3 and their leadership in the room, FT and Ray Roessel.
I was really excited when I read an article just two days ago, that made reference to the headmistress of a Chinese school in Shanghai saying golf helps the students build self-determination, self-discipline and manners.
We'd love to be a part of helping share the many wonderful values that are part of the game of golf, and this is an extremely positive step forward in growing the game of golf in China.
Speaking of youngsters, we're excited to have with us two very talented Chinese golfers, Zecheng and Xinjun, up here with us. Both golfers are products of PGA TOUR China, and between them, they have won six times on that tour with Zecheng being PGA TOUR China's Player of the Year in 2016.
It's hard to believe but at the beginning of this year, they both moved on to the Web.com Tour and just finished their seasons a few weeks ago. Zecheng winning in Kansas City, Xinjun coming close to winning with two runner-up finishes. They had very successful seasons as they both finished inside the Top-25 on the Money List to earn PGA TOUR membership for the 2017-18 season.
This is significant, really significant, for Chinese golf, because Zecheng and Xinjun are the first two players from China to hold PGA TOUR membership. I would like to warmly welcome them to the PGA TOUR and congratulate them on their accomplishments.
They followed the path from PGA TOUR China to the Web.com Tour, to the PGA TOUR, and they are ideal examples of what you can do when you have immense talent, you dream big and you play on PGA TOUR China.
I would like to hand the time now to Zecheng and Xinjun to share their thoughts with us.
ZECHENG DOU: I'm really honoured to be here participating at the WGC-HSBC Champions this week representing China which is a great honour for me and also Chinese players. It's very exciting for us to be competing this week as PGA Tour Members now in what will be our first full season in 2017 to 2018.
Through the PGA TOUR China organised by the Chinese Golf Association, we have the opportunity to grow our careers and also on the Web.com Tour this year with our performance, we were both very fortunate to enjoy some success which has led us to our PGA TOUR card right now.
We want to thank the CGA and also the PGA TOUR to provide us with such a platform to perform. We wish all the best and hope to have a better season in the upcoming 2017-18 and hope to give more dreamers the will to continue to pursuit their dreams here of China golf.
XINJUN ZHANG: I'm very happy and first want to thank the China Golf Association and also thank the PGA TOUR to provide us with such opportunity to get through the PGA TOUR China and to be able to participate in the Web.com, and now the PGA TOUR itself.
I am hoping the continuity of the promoting of the growth of Chinese golf and also the development of Chinese golf will be majorly impacted by this march of the PGA TOUR China in 2018.
I'm very fortunate that I can now enjoy the WGC-HSBC Champions as a member of the PGA TOUR, which is different from the previous years. I'm glad that I can experience the PGA TOUR China back in 2016 and now to be able to compete in the upcoming PGA TOUR, as well.
I wish all the best on the upcoming PGA TOUR China in 2018 because we are nurtured from this tour which is very important to Chinese golfers. I hope myself and Zecheng have a good upcoming season and I hope that one day I can display the Chinese flag on some of the wins on the PGA TOUR. Thank you.
CHUAH CHOO CHIANG: Thank you. The PGA TOUR is very excited to you join our Tour, as well, and we wish you all the best for the season.
Q. To both Mr. Zhang and Mr. Monahan, what's your take for the difference between the upcoming PGA TOUR China now in 2018 and the China tour now, the difference between these two tournaments.
COMMISSIONER MONAHAN: I would just say that the biggest difference is when we launched PGA TOUR China, back in 2014, it was brand new. It had not been done before.
We had a great partner and a great commitment to each other, but if you fast-forward to today, I think the difference is what's represented up here on the stage. These two fine players representing a country and playing a game at the highest level on the PGA TOUR; I think we just are creating more opportunities as we go forward off of what has been a great start to PGA TOUR China.
ZHANG XIAONING: We need to be open and be cooperative and also to work together in every part that we can get our hands on, because this is the new direction of not only the country but also towards the golf development in China. As well as representing the China Golf Association, we are typically looking for a better, faster, more efficient development of golf in China, so we need to be open and cooperative.
So talking about the China Tour and also the PGA TOUR China, basically both tours will be developing in both ways and to find their own position to keep continuing the growth and development in China.
The main point of the China Golf Association in working together with the PGA TOUR is to provide for opportunity for China golfers to not only have more tournaments to play and for professional China golfers to have more opportunity to get more earning, as well, and no better working with PGA TOUR or European Tour or Asian Tour.
We are looking forward to strengthen the development of the sport of golf in China and to hopefully provide them with not only a better platform to develop but also to hope to gain more opportunity to strength their skills of Chinese golfers to have better performance in major international sporting events, and they need to utilise the opportunity to learn, as well as to be brave to explore new opportunity which will help Chinese golfers to have a brighter future and better potential in this sport.
Q. Next year when the PGA TOUR China lands in China, can you give us a timeline with this partnership between the PGA TOUR and the CGA? Will that be a one-year partnership, three-year partnership or a five-year partnership? And the second part of the question, you just expressed that the path to the PGA TOUR with the top five money winners earning their 2019 Web.com Tour membership. Would that be a tough or difficult decision for the PGA TOUR to make? And the third part is other than the PGA TOUR China launching next year, is there any different partnership that the PGA TOUR is working with the China Golf Association to better develop the golf in China?
COMMISSIONER MONAHAN: In terms of the timeline, the way that we look at our partnership with the CGA and our commitment to the game here in China is a forever perspective, but the specifics of this announcement today, are for at least the next three years -- I'm going to go back to the first question before I go to the second one, and it's actually at least four years, not three years.
And in terms of it being a difficult decision, the answer so that is no. This is an easy decision. These two players are a perfect example of what the results of this partnership can be for the game at the highest level. This is not -- while we've played on this tour for three years, our commitment to China and golf in China and developing the game in China with our partnership with the CGA goes back to 1995 when we brought the World Cup here.
So we have always taken the long view on our commitment here, and these five spots selfishly, we think are great for the game, not just the PGA TOUR but for the game. Because if we can unlock the largest country and the largest market in the world and we can inspire future generations, and hopefully young people are watching these two stars and other stars as we go forward, we think that that's a wonderful thing for the best game on the planet.
As it relates to our development plans, I think the development today is the most important part of our development plans. But we are going to work and continue to work closely with the CGA as well as our partners Shanghai Sports and i3, and we have a commitment to deliver great tournaments. You saw the consequence of the significance of the prize fund the players will be playing for.
We want to develop more elite Chinese players through PGA TOUR China, and I think you'll see us continue to collaborate as Zhang was saying here, I think you'll see us collaborate on the specifics behind inspiring future generations and developing the game, and you'll hear more from us in the future on that. But I think that's a real opportunity now that we're this far in.
ZHANG XIAONING: The difficulty, as the Commissioner has just expressed, is not really difficult, but he might actually have a much more difficult task for the PGA TOUR: As the PGA TOUR and the CGA have been friendly partners for many years, and the CGA is really hoping that the Web.com Tour can also one day establish their footsteps in China, as well.
Dating back to 2013, working very closely with Mr. Tim Finchem, to be able to bring the PGA TOUR to China, certainly the next task which might be a difficult task for the PGA TOUR is to bring the Web.com Tour to China, one tournament or five, as many tournaments as you can give, we will take it.
We would like to thank HSBC for the tremendous support because without not only the support of the HSBC Champions, and also HSBC has been working very closely with the CGA in development and establishment of golf in China with the HSBC Future Stars Programme, which has nurtured thousands and thousands of kids here in China in their development on the sport of golf; and certainly based on the tremendous working partnership and relationship between the CGA and the PGA TOUR, I certainly hope that one day the Web.com can also put their footprint here in China.
Q. While Mr. Zhang has expressed that of course with the participation of the Chinese golfers and the PGA TOUR in China, it will definitely gain positive impact in the Olympic qualifications. So the PGA TOUR China in 2018, will any World Ranking points be counted in this upcoming tour, and will you share more details about that?
COMMISSIONER MONAHAN: Well, in terms of the World Ranking points, those decisions are made by an independent board, the Official World Golf Ranking Board. So we are going to have to go through a process there and we are hopeful that World Ranking points will be issued.
But I'll stress that we are going to, the five players, the five top performers on this tour will have access to the Web.com Tour with 15 getting preferred or stronger access to the Web.com qualifying tournament, so that continues. I think that in it and of itself is perhaps the greatest opportunity for players to continue to move forward from China playing at the highest level, and hopefully getting to the PGA TOUR, more and more players.
Q. What is the value or the benefit to the PGA TOUR that China develop elite players?
COMMISSIONER MONAHAN: I think the value to the PGA TOUR, I would respond to that in two parts. One, I think the value to the game is immeasurable, and I think we're going to see that play out for a long time to come.
But the value to us, again, it goes back to, you look at the way that our partnership with the CGA has developed through the years to coming here with the World Cup in 1995 and playing it four times to having the WGC-HSBC Champions in 2009 to hoping an office in Beijing in 2013 to establishing PGA TOUR China in 2014; obviously we feel very strongly about this market and its ability, one, for our ability to use our platform to pull more young people in the game and help grow the game, and any time you do that, that's especially a benefit to the PGA TOUR.
One of the six tenets to our mission statement is to grow the game, and any time we are actively growing, diversifying, developing the game, opening new markets, hopefully everybody that's involved in the game is benefitting.
In that scenario, we're obviously going to benefit. But we're really looking at it from that perspective, which is this is an extraordinary opportunity with a great partner to continue to grow this game.
CHUAH CHOO CHIANG: With that last question, we will wrap up this morning's press conference. We want to thank Mr. Zhang, Commissioner Monahan and our two players here this morning and we wish all of you the best luck. Have a great week ahead.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports