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More prize money at stake in World Match Play Championship

SOFIA (Reuters) - Prize money for the 2013 World Match Play Championship will rise to 3 million euros ($3.90 million), Per Ericsson, president of event management for sponsors Volvo said on Monday.

The figure marks a nine percent increase over the 2012 total of 2.75 million euros.

Bulgaria will host a European tour event for the first time when the 2013 World Match Play Championship is staged at the Black Sea resort of Thracian Cliffs from May 16-19.

"Now, we are the first to bring a full European Tour event to Bulgaria," Ericsson told a news conference in Sofia.

"Not only does Thracian Cliffs provide us with a wonderful stage for this great tournament but, vitally, it works for us on a business level as Eastern Europe is a very important business area for us.".

The elite World Match Play Championship, celebrating its 50th year in 2013, will gather 24 of the world's best players to compete for the title.

"The 3.0 million euros prize fund adds to the millions Volvo has invested into golf over the last 25 years and reflects the status of this championship," sports management company IMG's global co-managing director Guy Kinnings said.

Defending champion Nicolas Colsaerts, 2012 Portugal Mastsers' winner Shane Lowry and Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Louis Oosthuizen and Peter Hanson - the leading four players on the final 2012 Race to Dubai Rankings, have already qualified for the event.

The winner will collect 800,000 euros ($1.04 million) from the prize fund.

"I am very excited to be defending my title at this new venue," said Colsaerts.

"As historic as the Match Play Championship is, I think it is pretty neat that it is still making history as the first full European tournament to be held in Bulgaria and I look forward to experiencing all Bulgaria has to offer in May."

Gary Player, one of the biggest names in the sport, designed Thracian Cliffs and the course in the Balkan country has been described as the "Pebble Beach of Europe", a reference to the spectacular championship links in California.

($1 = 0.7689 euros)

(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by John Mehaffey)

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