Growth for golf is in Asia, says Asian Tour chief executive

Asian Tour chief executive Mike Kerr said Monday that the outlook for golf in the continent is positive again after a difficult few years in which tournaments were scrapped and sponsors became hard to find.
The presence of 2011 British Open winner Darren Clarke of Norhen Ireland helped raise the prestige of the inaugural Dubai Open at The Els Club on December 21.  Francois Nel / Getty Images
The presence of 2011 British Open winner Darren Clarke of Norhen Ireland helped raise the prestige of the inaugural Dubai Open at The Els Club on December 21. Francois Nel / Getty Images

Asian Tour chief executive Mike Kerr said on Monday that the outlook for golf in the continent is positive again after a difficult few years in which tournaments were scrapped and sponsors became hard to find.

The region received a boost last month when the European Tour announced it had added a new “Asian swing” to its 2015 schedule with events in Malaysia, Thailand and India.

February will see the long-established Maybank Malaysian Open followed by two new co-sanctioned Asian Tour and European Tour events, the US$2 million (Dh7.3m) Thailand Classic and the Hero Indian Open.

“It really highlights that Asia is where the growth is going to be,” Kerr said.

“If you look at the two, more established markets, the US and certainly western Europe, they are fairly saturated.

“You’re going to get organic growth in those markets but you’re not going to get many new tournaments.”

The Asian Tour, which culminated its 2014 season with the Dubai Open won by Indian Arjun Atwal at the weekend, enjoyed a boom period before leaner economic times and the greater competition added in 2009 from the rival OneAsia tour, hampered the growth of its schedule.

Two flagship events, both co-sanctioned with the European Tour, were particularly affected.

The Singapore Open, once touted as “Asia’s major”, was sidelined and the Hong Kong Open left without a title sponsor.

Hong Kong still lacks a headline backer but the European Tour has underlined its importance with a key slot on next year’s calendar, just before the season-ending “Final Series”.

The European Tour has also added a new China date to its calendar for next year, with the Shenzhen International, which is not sanctioned by the Asian Tour, set to debut in April, a week before the Volvo China Open.

Next November, two of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai “Final Series” events will again take place in Shanghai – the WGC-HSBC Champions and the BMW Masters.

Kerr said the Asian Tour was also looking to increase the number of its stand-alone events, pointing out that the Vascory Classic in Malaysia had been added to next year’s calendar.

“Am I happy with where the Asian Tour is at the moment? I think I am. Obviously, we would love to have more tournaments, more purses, and more opportunities for the players, but it takes time,” he said. “What we want to do is develop a sustainable tour. We don’t want a flash-in-the-pan event coming in and off the schedule which has, in some ways, happened in the past.

“Certainly, over the past couple of years, we have had a fairly rough time and things have been quite tight, but I think we can see that we are starting to come out of that situation.”

Despite the bright outlook, Kerr conceded that it was unlikely that Asia would one day proudly host a fifth major to add to the game’s historic Masters, US Open, British Open and PGA titles.

“It’s difficult to think that you could create a major,” he said. “Just to think you can throw money at an event and therefore call it a major, I don’t think, is realistic.

“But I do think you will get more substantial tournaments in this part of the world.”

Follow us on twitter at @SprtNationalUAE

Published: December 22, 2014 04:00 AM

SHARE

Editor's Picks
NEWSLETTERS
Sign up to:

* Please select one