The Masters Tournament will continue its efforts to grow golf by helping create an Asian Amateur Championship and offering the winner a spot in its 2010 field.
Billy Payne, chairman of the Masters and Augusta National Golf Club, made the announcement Sunday night at a news conference in Hong Kong. He made it in partnership with the R&A, which governs golf outside of the United States, and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation, which represents 32 countries in the region.
Amateurs have always been critical to the tradition and history of the Masters, Mr. Payne said in a phone interview. The continuation and prominence of amateurs in the field is a salute to our grass roots and a way to showcase golfers as they are developing.
The inaugural event will be held Oct. 29-Nov. 1 at Mission Hills Golf Club in China. The 72-hole stroke play event will have a field of no more than 120 players, and competitors will come from Asia-Pacific affiliated countries.
The winner of the tournament will be invited to play in the 2010 Masters, and the winner and runner-up will earn places in international final qualifying for the British Open.
Currently, the Masters field has spots for five amateur participants. Amateurs have been a part of the Masters since its inception because Bobby Jones, co-founder of Augusta National and the Masters, is considered the greatest amateur of all time.
The creation of the Asian Amateur is just the latest move by the Masters to help grow the game worldwide and get youth interested in golf. Under Mr. Paynes tenure as chairman, the Masters has televised its annual Par-3 Contest and implemented a Junior Pass Program to let children ages 8-16 attend the tournament when accompanied by an accredited patron.
We keep dreaming and trying to implement as best we can, Mr. Payne said. I think this was just a logical extension.
The R&A expanded its global efforts in 2004 with the creation of international final qualifiers on five different continents.
Throughout our 250-year history, the R&A has worked hard to act in the best interests of the game of golf, Peter Dawson, the R&As chief executive, said in a prepared statement. The potential to grow the game in Asia-Pacific is very large and the creation of this championship represents a wonderful opportunity to see the regions talent flourish.
The event will be played in other countries affiliated with the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation, and the 2010 event is already scheduled to be held in Japan.
Golf continues to grow in this region and what better way to stimulate that growth than to enter into this groundbreaking agreement with the Masters and the R&A, said Tommy Lee, chairman of the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation. This initiative will help bring the game to new audiences in Asia-Pacific and will give aspiring amateur golfers a special opportunity in the game.
The Masters Tournament currently invites up to five amateur participants, and that will change in 2010 with the inclusion of the Asian Amateur champion. Current invitees are:
U.S. Amateur champion
U.S. Amateur runner-up
British Amateur champion
U.S. Amateur Public Links champion
U.S. Mid-Amateur champion
Best finish: T2, Frank Stranahan, 1947; 2, Ken Venturi, 1956; T2, Charles R. Coe, 1961
Most in field: 26, 1966
Fewest in field: 3, 1942
ASIAN AMATEUR FORMAT
The field will be selected by the following criteria:
1. The top two ranked amateur players from each of the APGC member countries plus the four top ranked players from the host country, as ranked on The R&A World Amateur Golf Rankings as of Aug. 14, 2009. If the country does not have enough ranked players, it can nominate a player(s) who has an established handicap of less than 5.4.
2. The remainder of the field (maximum 120 players) will be filled taking the next highest ranked players of APGC member countries.
3. The tournament can invite additional players at its discretion.