Mission Hills, CAA to host China golf tourney

Michael Douglas to play against Nick Faldo, Greg Norman

BEIJING -- The Mission Hills Group, operator of the world's largest golf resort, and the Creative Artists Agency are launching the Star Trophy tournament in October on the southern China island of Hainan, bringing Hollywood celebrities, top-ranked golfers and Chinese amateurs together on the green for the first time.

"The whole world has its eyes on China and there is no better way to gain visibility in this market than through this first-of-its-kind celebrity golf event," said Tenniel Chu, Mission Hills China's executive director and a son of the group chairman, David Chu, a Hong Kong paper packaging tycoon turned golf aficionado.

The Oct. 28-31 pro-am tourney, which offers $1.28 million in individual prize money to the pro winner -- the largest purse in Asian golf -- will feature play by Hollywood stars such as Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Matthew McConaughey and Hugh Grant pitting their putts against elite golfers such as Nick Faldo, Greg Norman and Annika Sorenstam.

While a host of Asian celebrities such as Japanese comedian Akashiya Sanma and Chinese Olympic gymnast turned sportswear magnate Li Ning will appeal to a regional audience, Chu said the Hollywood celebrities' star power will have the greatest impact on developing the sport in China and attracting visitors to Hainan, often billed as China's Hawaii.

Also confirmed for the inaugural event, to be played at Mission Hills' course in the Hainan capital of Haikou, are Olympic gold medal swimmer Michael Phelps, former NBA MVP Charles Barkley, actor Christian Slater and Japan’s U.S. PGA tour winner Ryuji Imada.

China now is home to about 4 million golfers, a number that is growing at about 50% per year as the nation's middle class swells, meaning that by 2020 there could be 20 million Chinese playing the game, Chu said.

Most Chinese fans watch the sport either on the dedicated golf and tennis cable channel of China Central Television or on Guangdong Television's China Golf Channel, where sponsors include computer maker Lenovo and a host of apparel brands little-known outside China.

Chu said broadcast rights to the Star Trophy tournament were "a work in progress." "We are hoping to work with CCTV, Eurosports in Europe and the Golf Channel in the U.S.," Chu said on the sidelines of a press conference at the exclusive Hong Kong Jockey Club in Beijing.

The Mission Hills Group, the Hong Kong and Shenzhen, China-based owner and operator of the 12-course Mission Hills Shenzhen resort, recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest golf facility.
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