US PGA Tour cancels Hong Kong event over player safety

The Clearwater Bay Open, scheduled from October 17-20, became the latest sporting casualty of sometimes violent mass anti-government protests.

The Clearwater Bay Open would have been the climax of the third-tier. (REPRESENTATIVE IMAGE)   -  GETTY IMAGES/AFP

The US PGA Tour on Tuesday cancelled next month’s season-ending event on its Chinese feeder golf circuit in Hong Kong citing “continued demonstrations, civil unrest and safety concerns“.

The Clearwater Bay Open, from October 17-20, would have been the climax of the third-tier, 14-event, PGA Tour Series-China.

Instead it became the latest sporting casualty of sometimes violent mass anti-government protests.

Next month’s WTA Hong Kong Open featuring many of the world’s top women tennis players has already been postponed and last week a horse racing meeting at the city’s famous Happy Valley track was cancelled for the first time.

“Due to continued demonstrations, civil unrest and safety concerns in Hong Kong, PGA Tour Series-China is cancelling the 2019 Clearwater Bay Open,” said a tour statement on Tuesday.

The PGA Tour Series-China has around 50 Chinese players in its 100-plus membership and works closely with the Beijing-backed China Golf Association to stage events, with only two tournaments -- in Macau and Hong Kong -- being hosted outside the mainland.

With a large mainland entry at Clearwater Bay, which lies to the east of Hong Kong Island, there were fears that the event could be targeted by anti-Beijing protesters.

“The safety of our players, staff, fans, volunteers and everybody else associated with our tournaments is always at the forefront of anything we do,” PGA Tour Series-China chief Greg Carlson said.

“We have analysed this situation from every angle, and as a group we determined that cancelling the 2019 Clearwater Bay Open is the best decision.”

Millions of pro-democracy supporters have taken to Hong Kong’s streets for almost four months in the biggest challenge to China’s rule since the city’s handover from Britain in 1997.

Violent clashes have become more intense across the city in recent weeks with police frequently unleashing baton charges, tear gas and bean bag rounds.

The PGA Tour Series-China season will now end with the Macau Championship from October 10-13.

The tour’s most famous graduate is the world number 52 Li Haotong, who won the 2014 order of merit before going on to finish third in the 2017 British Open. He has also won twice on the European Tour.