With golf returning to the Olympics in 2016, the PGA Tour has taken a step toward widening its global reach with a deal to co-sponsor a series of professional tournaments in China.

The Tour will partner with the China Golf Assn. and a Chinese event promoter to stage 12 tournaments offering purses of about $200,000 beginning in March.

Commissioner Tim Finchem said he believes that nurturing pro stars is the best way to attract fans and recreational players to the sport.

"Certainly that's been the case in the United States since Arnold Palmer came along in 1960 and it's been 40, 50 years of continuous growth," he said during a news conference at the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai last weekend.

The top players on the new China Tour-PGA Tour China Series will have a chance to advance to the Web.com Tour, and then to the PGA Tour. Similar models have been established in Canada and Latin America.

Zhang Xiaoning, executive vice president of the Chinese golf association, characterized the announcement as "a very cheerful and fantastic day to celebrate."

"The mission is trying to bring not only China golfers into the Olympics, but also to be able to bring China golfers into the world-class level," he said.

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