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Alisports and LPGA sign 10-year deal

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Alisports (Shanghai) CO., LTD, a division of Alibaba Group, is partnering with the Ladies Professional Golf Association to own an LPGA tournament hosted annually in Mainland China for the next 10 years, the company announced today. The tournament will be a part of the LPGA’s fall Asian swing and will be on the Tour’s schedule in late September or early October.

“We’re thrilled to establish this long-term partnership with such a well-renowned corporation as Alibaba Group and their sports division, Alisports,” said LPGA Chief Commercial Officer Jon Podany. “Securing the LPGA’s presence in China will facilitate the continued growth of the game’s popularity amongst the more than 1.3 billion people living here over the next decade and beyond. Alisports’ digital reach will allow our players and events to be broadcast to millions of new fans and help build the next generation of golf talent around the world.”

Alisports was created in an effort to leverage Alibaba Group’s vast e-commerce ecosystem of nearly 500 million users and transform the China sports industry through the use of internet-based technologies. Founded in 2015, Alisports has also struck deals with the National Football League, FIFA Club World Cup and International Boxing Association among others. In September, Alisports served as the presenting sponsor at the 2016 Reignwood LPGA Classic.

“I’m very pleased to see LPGA Classic this year achieved a great success in Beijing,” said CEO of Alisports Zhang Dazhong. “I believe this is our first step in promoting this green, gentle, health sport. We share a vision with LPGA to have the mainland China event become one of the very best tournaments on the LPGA schedule and also worldwide. We expect Chinese women’s golf will make a rapid growth in the next decade.”

Alisports is committed to providing a high-quality, professional standard and rich experience in organization and operation to build an important and classic stage for Chinese players to compete with the greatest golfers in the world. In addition to holding tournaments, the company will also develop business in facilities, e-commerce, youth training and sports tourism to provide customers with an all-around sports service. Alisports’ hope is that more people will be able to experience the fun of golf as both spectators and participants.

The tournament owned by Alisports will be held in conjunction with the China Golf Association and the China LPGA TOUR. The event is initially scheduled to be played at Reignwood Pine Valley in Changping District, China, which has previously hosted the Reignwood LPGA Classic three times from 2013-2016.

The agreement between the LPGA and Alisports represents China’s steadfast commitment to growing the game of golf in the country and across the globe. Shanshan Feng, the highest ranked Chinese player at No. 12 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, became the first player from China to join the LPGA Tour in 2008. In 2012, Feng’s win at the 2012 Wegmans LPGA Championship made her the first Chinese golfer to win on the LPGA Tour and the only golfer (male or female) from China to win a major championship. Feng has four career LPGA wins and also captured the bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, golf’s first appearance at the Olympics in 112 years.

The LPGA Tour currently has six active players from China. World No. 71 Xi Yu Lin also represented China in the Olympic Games, finishing in 38th place while recording the first ace in women’s Olympic golf history in the process. Earlier this year, the Chinese team made up of LPGA members Shanshan Feng, Xi Yu Lin, Jing Yan and Simin Feng finished in 6th place at the UL International Crown in the country’s first appearance in the event.

The LPGA’s first visit to China came in 2008 at the Grand China Air LPGA in Haikou, Hainan Island, China. In 2016, the LPGA held two tournaments in China as part of the Tour’s six-tournament fall Asian swing. This year there were a total of 11 official events played outside North America on the LPGA’s 33-event schedule, including eight in Asia.