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21 January 2006
 

THE ASIAN GOLF TOUR

Golf is Asia has taken some giant strides in recent in years with the development of the Asian Golf Tour. The game of golf in Asia has taken on a new and more professional face that presents sponsors, countries and most of all the golfing public with a professional golf tour that brings together the best the world has to offer in the most exciting region in the world. 2006 will see 32 events and over $ 23 million USD in prize money. This is incredible growth in the past few years. So how did this all happen? I had the opportunity to ask several questions to a Louis Martin, Asian Tour Chief Executive about the tour, the game and the future of golf in Asia.

Q&A WITH LOUIS MARTIN, ASIAN TOUR CHIEF EXECUTIVE

1. The Asian Tour has grown so rapidly in the past 3 years - why is this and the key influences on it success now and for the future?

The Players, our dedicated Board of Directors and an effective Management Team have been the pillars behind our success. The foundation that we formed and the key principles that we set for ourselves have been fundamental towards our growth. There were initial apprehensions in the market place when the players formed the Asian Tour in January, 2004 but through unity, perseverance and dedication, we have managed to overcome the obstacles and earned the confidence of our sponsors. Our mission statement is to create playing opportunities for our members and maintaining the integrity of the game and as long as we maintain our focus towards these goals, I believe the future is very bright indeed for the Asian Tour.

2. The game of golf has traditionally had very strong business links in Asia. This part aside what is the Asian Tour doing in regards to growth of the game?

We are venturing into new and emerging golf nations where we want to create better awareness of the game and eventually raise playing standards. In 2004, we successfully created a new tournament in Vietnam and last year, we staged the inaugural Brunei Open with great success. In 2006, we have tied up new tournaments in Pakistan and India, as well as in Malaysia, which to us are the sleeping giants of Asian golf. By creating new tournaments, we believe it will increase the popularity of the game and spur more people to learn the game and enjoy the values that golf portrays.

3. In neighboring Japan, The Ladies Professional Tour has become the number one interest from the viewing public. Will the Asian Tour be involved in any of the ladies development tours in Asia given the success Ladies Golf around the world e.g Wie, Sorenstam, Miyazoto, Creamer, Presell playing Asian Tour events?

Our main priority is to firmly establish the Asian Tour as one of the leading international Tours of the world and this will mean boosting our Schedule and increasing prize funds. We do not have any immediate plans to venture into the ladies game as there is already an organization which runs professional golf in Asia.

4. Who are the galleries and viewing public of golf on the Asian Tour and do they differ from those playing the game in Asia?

All our tournaments are well supported by local spectators. But whenever there is a big-name player like Ernie Els or Tiger Woods at an event, many fans are ready to board a plane and purchase tickets to watch the stars in action. The demographics of the galleries mainly range from young and aspiring golfers, executives who are obviously golf-crazy and those who are established industry leaders.

5. Sponsors - Recently HSBC, UBS are examples of quality sponsors the tour has attracted. Are there other key supporters and sponsors you wish to mention?

Volvo must be applauded as they were one of the first major sponsors of golf in Asia and are still very much a driving force for the game in this region. Apart from title sponsoring the Volvo China Open, the company also stages our season-ending Volvo Masters of Asia. Sentosa Leisure Group is another major sponsor who have come into the picture in a very big way by sponsoring the Singapore Open, which is a full field event and Asia's richest national Open at US$3 million. They have raised the bar for other Opens to follow and we have seen the result of this as other national Opens have also raised their prize funds in recent times. It is difficult to single out sponsors as we are lucky to have many quality sponsors and we thank all of them for their support.

6. Geographically Asia is positioned perfectly for staging key sporting events. It is a goal of the Asian Tour to stage further co sanctioned events with Europe, Japan and possibly the USA PGA Tours. ? Or is the tour endeavoring to stand alone?

As stated, one of our missions is to create new playing opportunities for our players. And we are in the game to look after all of our 250 members. This means our priority will be to create and sustain Asian Tour-only events. However, if a new opportunity arises for a co-sanctioned event with any Tour, we will certainly look at it positively. For example, we have an agreement with the European Tour that any new co-sanctioned events with them will have to carry a full-field for the Asian Tour, meaning a minimum 90 spots for our players. Current co-sanctioned events carry a field of around 65 players for our Tour.

7. The tour must have many other successful people or divisions, can you highlight some of the key people and divisions who make this Asian Tour a success.

We work as a team, each individual or division complements each other to ensure that everything runs smoothly and professionally. From our accounts personnel to tournament administrative staff members, everyone has played their role in the Tour's success.

8. The USA has an initiative called 2020, which is about growing the game of golf.. Is the Asian Tour aligned with any development programs for 2006 onwards?

No, we are not involved with 20/20. Our main involvement with golf development comes primarily from our membership within the International Federation of PGA Tours, which consists of the six major Tours of the world.

Web: www.asiantour.com

Enquiries: pjones@outdoorjapan.com

Paul Jones, 21 January 2006

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  • About Paul
    Paul Jones is the current Director of Education for Accordia Golf here in Japan. A AAA Australian PGA professional Paul has been involved in all facets of the sport and hospitality industry for the past 15 years.

    Paul has worked on all major professional golf tours around the world for the past 10 years with leading players and instructors in the development of the game.

    Contact Paul »

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