New corporate sponsor to retain European Tour golf tourney in S. Korea

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Oct. 28 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will retain its lone European Tour golf tournament after all.

The Korea Professional Golfers' Association (KPGA), the European Tour and the Asian Tour jointly announced on Monday that the tournament formerly called the Ballantine's Championship will be held under a new title sponsor next spring.

Last week, Chivas Brothers said it withdrew its sponsorship of the Ballantine's Championship after six years in South Korea. Then on Tuesday, the three golf entities said the tournament's promoter, Parallel Media Group (PMG), extended its current agreement to stage the event. The new corporate sponsor will be announced in the near future, officials said.

Officials also said the event, temporarily named The Championship, will return to Blackstone Golf Club in Icheon in Gyeonggi Province, south of Seoul, for the fourth consecutive year, from May 1 to 4, 2014. They added that the tournament will have a purse of US$1.5 million.

"Korea is an increasingly important marketplace for the European Tour, so after six very successful tournaments we are delighted that PMG have agreed to extend their commitment to promote this event," said Keith Waters, the European tour's chief operating officer. "Through our very close relationship with PMG and our co-sanctioning partners, the Asian Tour and the KPGA, we are very confident of re-establishing The Championship as one of the leading events in Asia."

Hwang Sung-ha, chairman of the KPGA, said playing with the world's best players should only help South Korean golfers further develop their game.

"We are really looking forward to welcoming the cream of the European Tour and the Asian Tour to Blackstone Golf Club next May," Hwang added.

Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland was the inaugural champion in 2008. He later won the U.S. Open in 2010.

Englishman Lee Westwood won the 2011 event while ranked No. 1 in the world. Brett Rumford of Australia won the last Ballantine's this year.

Other major champions who competed in the tourney include Yang Yong-eun of South Korea, Ernie Els and Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, Paul Lawrie of Scotland, Fred Couples of the United States, Adam Scott of Australia, Padraig Harrington of Ireland and Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland.

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