Hong Kong Open golf tournament postponed as protests grip city

Hong Kong Open golf tournament postponed as protests grip city

hong kong open golf tournament 2018
England's Aaron Rai hits a shot on the 10th hole during the fourth and final round of the Hong Kong Open golf tournament at the Hong Kong Golf Club on Nov 25, 2018. (Photo: AFP/Vivek PRAKASH)

HONG KONG: Next week's US$1.5 million Hong Kong Open, one of the biggest golf tournaments in Asia, has been postponed after violence from protests escalated this week, the Asian Tour and European Tour said on Wednesday (Nov 20)

The 60th anniversary edition of the tournament had been scheduled to be played from Nov 28 to Dec 1.

"An attempt will be made to reschedule the tournament to early 2020," the European Tour and its co-sanctioning partner at the Asian Tour said in a joint statement.

"The decision has been taken due to the ongoing level of social unrest in Hong Kong," European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said.

"As the safety of our players, staff, stakeholders and everyone involved in each and every one of our tournaments around the world is our top priority, we feel this is the correct, but unfortunate, course of action."

Pelley had said earlier this month that the tournament would not be affected as the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling was far from the city centre where most of the clashes between protesters and the police took place.

READ: Hong Kong harbour swim scrapped over political unrest

Asian Tour commissioner and CEO Cho Minn Thant said: "It is regrettable that the Hong Kong Open has to be postponed due to the ongoing unrest in the city.

"The unpredictability of the current situation in Hong Kong makes it very challenging to sanction the tournament especially with the safety of everyone of utmost importance.

"However, we are optimistic that once the situation in Hong Kong stabilises, we will be in a better position to sanction the 61st edition of the Hong Kong Open in the very near future."

The Hong Kong Open had stood alone with the Masters at Augusta as the only professional tournaments to be held continuously at the same venue for more than half-a-century, according to the Hong Kong Golf Club website.

It is Asia's second oldest national golf open after the Philippine Open and a known favourite of top players.

Former British Open champion Francesco Molinari, Henrik Stenson and Patrick Reed were among the big names who were scheduled to play next week.

Other players on the role of honour include Justin Rose, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Colin Montgomerie, Ian Poulter and Jose Maria Olazabal.

On Wednesday, however, it became the most high-profile sports tournament in a growing list of banned, cancelled or postponed events in the city's normally packed social calendar.

An extended, violent siege at Polytechnic University, where police have encircled students and activists, have raised tensions in the city to a new high over the past week.

The organiser for Hong Kong's biggest music festival cancelled this year's edition after having earlier vowed to press ahead despite the protests. 

READ: Hong Kong music festival Clockenflap cancelled as protest violence escalates

The Clockenflap music festival usually takes place annually in front of Hong Kong's iconic harbour and attracts tens of thousands of fans. 

Hong Kong's annual pride parade on Nov 16 was downgraded to a stationary rally after police banned the traditionally boisterous and colourful march.

The WTA Hong Kong Open, Oxfam's annual trail run fundraiser, the city's iconic harbour swim, as well as concerts by acclaimed K-pop acts and comedians have also been pulled as the city reels from the protests.

MORE: Our coverage of the Hong Kong protests

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Source: Agencies/zl