TOKYO – PGA TOUR Champions and Japan Airlines (JAL) announced today a new event to be contested in suburban Tokyo, beginning in 2017. The JAPAN AIRLINES Championship, the first ever PGA TOUR-sanctioned event to be held in Japan, will be played at Narita Golf Club in Narita, Chiba Prefecture, Japan the week of September 4-10, 2017.
The announcement was made at the Tokyo American Club in Japan, with PGA TOUR Champions President Greg McLaughlin, Japan Airlines Co., Ltd. President Yoshiharu Ueki, U.S. Embassy of Tokyo Minister-Counselor Andrew Wylegala, World Golf Hall of Fame member Tom Watson, Accordia Golf Co., Ltd. President & CEO Yuko Tashiro and PGA of Japan Chairman Massy Kuramoto on hand for the unprecedented unveiling of the newest PGA TOUR Champions event.
“We are honored to welcome Japan Airlines into the PGA TOUR family, as we continue to further globalize PGA TOUR Champions and the legends of the game for golf fans around the world,” said PGA TOUR Champions President Greg McLaughlin. “The JAPAN AIRLINES Championship will be an exciting new venture for our Tour, and will allow our players and fans to experience the golf-rich culture that is Tokyo.”
The inclusion of the JAPAN AIRLINES Championship on the PGA TOUR Champions schedule comes on the heels of golf’s successful return to the Olympic Games for the first time in 112 years. The worldwide support of golf on an international platform has allowed the PGA TOUR to expand its roots overseas, with today’s announcement in Tokyo furthering that commitment.
“This will be a wonderful opportunity for the Japanese audience to witness first-hand the skills and humanity of the PGA TOUR Champions players, including members of the World Golf Hall of Fame,” said Japan Airlines President Yoshiharu Ueki. “I am honored to invite 60 PGA TOUR Champions players to ride on the wings of JAL to Japan to participate in this event, and hope that this tournament will develop familiarity with our country around the world and in the United States, in turn creating more opportunities for people to visit.”
Established in 1951, JAL is the original national airline of Japan, with service to over 51 countries annually and over 31 million worldwide members of its loyalty program, JAL Mileage Bank. The company hosts over 32 million domestic passengers, and 8 million international travelers, each year.
Watson, a 14-time winner on PGA TOUR Champions and a longtime ambassador of golf’s expansion internationally, emphasized the importance of the groundbreaking nature of the JAPAN AIRLINES Championship during Tuesday’s press conference.
“I am thrilled to be a part of today’s exciting announcement as we bring PGA TOUR Champions golf to Japan,” said Watson. “It is important that we continue to develop the next generation of golfers – both in the United States and abroad – and I know first-hand that the passion and love for the game the Japanese fans inherently enjoy will help to make this a marquee stop on our schedule.”
Watson, who notched 39 victories during his PGA TOUR career, won the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan in 1980 and 1997, claiming the latter title at the age of 48.
The JAPAN AIRLINES Championship will feature a $2.5 million purse and a field of 68 professionals, including up to eight local sponsor exemptions.
The announcement comes one week before the start of the inaugural Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs – a three-event, season-ending Playoff series to determine the season-long champion on PGA TOUR Champions. With its fall slot on the schedule, the JAPAN AIRLINES Championship will play a key role in determining which players advance to the Playoffs, which were formed as part of a record-setting 20-year marketing partnership between Charles Schwab & Co., and the PGA TOUR in 2015.