Hong Kong is in line to attract one of the US PGA Tour’s more higher profile events following the resounding success of the inaugural China Series Clearwater Bay Open which concluded with Sunday’s play-off victory for Australia’s Daniel Nisbet, according to greater China managing director Greg Gilligan.
Bar the smallest of organisational issues expected at a Clearwater Bay Golf Country Club hosting its biggest event following the success of last year’s Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, players and officials were glowing with praise both off and on course.
The club has signed a three-year deal to host the event until 2018 on the developmental circuit which is nearing the end of its third season, but discussions have already taken place and will continue throughout post event meetings over the coming weeks to determine the next step.
The China Series is one of six circuits operated by the heavyweight PGA Tour, and with the similar development tours in Canada and Latin America ruled out due on geographical reasons, that leaves the main PGA Tour as well as its second-tier Web.com circuit and also Champions seniors tour as potential future options.
“We couldn’t be any happier. We will look at what we can do bigger and better next year, but I would say this Clearwater Bay Open was a smashing success,” said Gilligan.
“We recognise what a great and important partnership this is. Though it is not set yet, we would love to do things beyond the China Series deal that we have in place until 2018.
Watch: Clearwater Bay Open play-off
“The PGA Tour Canada and the PGA Tour Latin America are not coming here, but for the other four tours, there are possibilities.
“We could for sure bring another event here from a business and marketing perspective. Hong Kong is a great market and right up there with all the possibilities that we can deliver.”
Current infrastructure issues at the club which is listed as the “preferred destination of the PGA Tour in Hong Kong” and simple availability could limit the chance of a full PGA Tour event in the near future.
The PGA Tour recently announced a Champions event in Japan next year, which will be the first tournament on that circuit to be played in Asia, while the Web.com – which is now effectively a year-long qualifier for the PGA Tour – has never ventured into the region.
Next year there will be three stops on the PGA Tour in Asia after an event in South Korea was added to existing commitments in China and Malaysia, with a total of US$26 million on offer in prize money next October.
“The PGA guys had already told us they were happy before Sunday, we will do a wrap up with them and see how they feel, but for the club this just another step in the club’s development, in particular around PGA events as there are different levels of the PGA we can look at,” said club golf committee chairman David Hui.
“The only problem is the big boys on the PGA are hitting the ball so long, it is how do smaller clubs and courses like ours survive in that type of environment, but there are ways of doing it.
“We chose this PGA China Tour Series for a reason and that was to help develop players and be of a size of an event we can manage, if you look at the Hong Kong Open they get 25,000 spectators. We just have to manage what we have got and manage it from there. We can’t rush in; we have committed for three years and we will see how it goes.”
December’s US$2 million Hong Kong Open is co-sanctioned by European Tour and Asian Tour and will see the likes of 2015 winner Justin Rose, Masters champion Danny Willett and American Ryder Cup winner Patrick Reed head to Hong Kong Golf Club at Fanling.
The US$180,000 Clearwater Bay Open was the first time the China Series had ventured away from the mainland and it certainly delivered a thrilling finish on Sunday as Nisbet eagled the first play-off hole to edge out American Alex Kang.
Kang held a four-shot overnight lead, but could only manage a one-under-par final round which allowed Nisbet’s six-under 64 to set up the decider.
And after Nisbet received a fortunate rebound of a cart path and into the fairway following a wayward tee shot, the Australian holed out from 10 feet for an eagle after Kang had missed the green with his approach shot.
Australia’s Daniel Nisbet beats Alex Kang in play-off to win PGA Tour China Series Clearwater Bay Open title
“This is the largest event I have won and also the most enjoyable with the scenery and the condition of the course,” said Nisbet after claiming his second professional win having finished alongside Kang at 15-under-par overall.
“This is by far the most breathtaking course I have ever played. The greens are brilliant and almost the same as I grew up on. The rest of the course is in such good condition that it is hard to play bad golf when you have such a great course, a great atmosphere and a wonderful city.”