Protest-delayed Hong Kong Open gets January slot

Protest-delayed Hong Kong Open gets January slot

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: The Hong Kong Open golf tournament, which was postponed last month amid violence from escalating anti-government protests, will go ahead in January but without sanctioning by the European Tour, organisers said on Friday (Dec 6).

The tournament, one of Asia's oldest and biggest golf competitions, was originally slated for Nov 28 to Dec 1, but was postponed as the city wrestled with months of protests.

The US$1 million event will now be held from Jan 9 to 12 at the Hong Kong Golf Club, and will be sanctioned by the Asian Tour but not the European Tour, which has the South African Open in the same week.

READ: Hong Kong's biggest charity walk cancelled as protests continue

The former British colony has been racked by six months of protests, sparked by a now-withdrawn China extradition Bill, but which widened into calls for greater democratic freedoms.

"While we are unable to sanction this edition of the Hong Kong Open due to other tournament commitments, we are delighted to retain an integral role in staging one of Hong Kong's best-loved sporting events," European Tour Chief Executive Keith Pelley said in a statement.

"We very much look forward to returning next November when the 62nd Hong Kong Open will kick off our 2021 European Tour season."

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The Hong Kong Open has been won by luminaries from Peter Thomson to Rory McIlroy, and had been an annual fixture at the colonial-era Fanling course for 60 editions since 1959 until its postponement this year.

A new line-up of players will be announced in the coming weeks, organisers said. Former British Open champion Francesco Molinari, Henrik Stenson and Patrick Reed were among the big names who had been due to play last month.

"We are pleased to announce the 61st Hong Kong Open will now be the curtain-raiser for our 2020 season," said Cho Minn Thant, the chief executive of the Asian Tour.

"As our season opening event, there will be an undoubtedly strong Asian Tour field with players eager to get their seasons off to a fast start."

READ: Hong Kong's pride parade downgraded to 'public meeting' as protests swirl

Several other sporting events, including the Hong Kong Tennis Open and the Hong Kong Open squash championships, were cancelled due to the civil unrest in the region.

MORE: Our coverage of the Hong Kong protests

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Source: Reuters/AFP/aj

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