2 minutes with... Iain Valentine
The chief executive of the Hong Kong Golf Association once used to be a rugby referee. The avid golfer, who has long hung up the whistle, says he is snowed under with paperwork as preparations peak for the staging of Hong Kong's oldest sporting event - this week's Omega Hong Kong Open. He is 56.
Why did you give up being a rugby referee?
I started believing the players. Some people would say I was also getting too old and couldn't see the ball.
How is the Hong Kong Open shaping up?
It will be a fantastic event. We have got a great field coming again and once again it is jointly sanctioned by the Asian and European Tours.
Are there any changes from previous years?
Yes. There is more money and the field will be the strongest seen in Fanling. Padraig Harrington, the defending champion, is returning and will lead a strong European challenge. Asia will also be strongly represented.
Will Hong Kong soon be able to offer a million dollar (US) purse?
We are targeting to offer US$1 million as prize money next year. This year we have increased the purse by US$100,000 to US$800,000. There are very few major tournaments that offer under US$1 million.
When can Hong Kong fans expect to see Tiger Woods or Vijay Singh?
All players cost money and we have a limited budget for star players. But our player budget has been used well this year.
Any help from the Hong Kong government?
The Hong Kong Golf Association has got help from the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and we are grateful for that.
What's the state of golf in Hong Kong?
Booming. We have over 16,000 players registered as having handicaps.
What's the most pressing need for the HKGA? We would like to have more facilities, especially more golf courses.
Do you miss rugby?
Of course not. I don't miss the situation where all 30 players are trying to be the referee.