New sponsorship puts APGA nearer spotlight
As if invigorated by an intensive aroma of caffeine, a new-found energy has been injected into the Asian Professional Golfers' Association.
Sparking the waves of optimism was last week's announcement of a far-reaching sponsorship deal with Davidoff Cafe.
As well as providing financial support to the Asian PGA Tour, the title sponsorship will drive the association's Tee-Off 2000 campaign, aimed at building the prestige and boosting the prize-money of the renamed Davidoff Tour.
With Asian PGA members beginning to flex their muscles on the golf courses of the world, the accord could not be more timely.
Ramlan Harun, executive director of the Asian PGA, said: 'The Asian PGA was formed to provide professional golfers with a framework to develop their talent and pursue their careers. The backing from Davidoff, linked with our ambitious plans for the year 2000, will help to take this to a new level.
'The Asian PGA has grown steadily in the past five years, with the majority of national Opens now under the one umbrella, and the dawning of the 21st century represents an appropriate time to expand further.' Like Swiss watchmaker Omega, its predecessor as Tour title sponsor, Davidoff has identified a synergy between its product and followers of professional golf in Asia.
Britta Hugenroth, international director of Davidoff Cafe, said: 'Some months ago, Davidoff Cafe entered into discussions with the Asian PGA about the opportunity to sponsor the Asian PGA Tour.
'At that time, although our distribution in Asia was limited to Singapore, we knew we could not miss this great opportunity.' Seamus O'Brien, chairman of Asian PGA Tour Ltd, was equally bullish, stating: 'It's very positive news. Davidoff is a quality brand name in the right sector of the marketplace. It's a company that has big plans for the region.' 'It's no secret that it's been really tough for the past 18 months. It's a pat on the back for all those who have been involved that we've hung in there. Now we've got to enjoy and properly manage the sort of expansion that we hope will come.' During the pre-Philippine Open press conference, Harun detailed Asian PGA plans to enlarge the circuit, increase prize money, stage bigger and better tournaments and win for its members the global recognition he believes they deserve through the world rankings.
In a clear message to the committee which controls and compiles the much-maligned rankings, Harun said: 'It's now time that our players were further rewarded for their displays by being granted world ranking points.' His call was given further weight with the triumph of South Korean Choi Kyung-ju in the Japan Tour's Ube Kosan Open last week. It was Choi's second victory in Japan in the space of a month and saw him move into the world's top 200 for the first time.
Considering that he has not won on the Asian PGA Tour during the past five years, the logical deduction is that the standard of play on the Japanese circuit may not be as high as on the Asian PGA Tour.
Yet despite being accorded a voice in world golf as an affiliate member of the PGA Tours International Federation, the Asian PGA is fighting for world-ranking recognition, its members denied the chance even to make their way on to the bottom rungs of the ladder.
Choi is not an isolated case. Asian PGA Tour stalwarts Jeev Singh of India and Gerry Norquist of the US have also achieved notable successes since gaining their playing rights for the PGA European Tour.
Said Harun: 'Golfers competing in this region have proven they have the ability to hold their own against the world's best.
'As a result, they should be ranked under the same system. We will continue to push for this recognition in the coming months.' Hugenroth endorsed those comments.
'We recognise the enormous wealth of golfing talent that there is in Asia.
'Together we will strive to bring greater worldwide recognition to the Asian PGA Tour as we head towards the new millennium,' she said.
[APGA] golfers . . . have proven they have the ability to hold their own against the world's best