Leaving no stone unturned in bid to entice the world's best

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 November, 2008, 12:00am

Enhancing the overall experience for players at the World Cup, rather than increasing the size of the tournament purse, is how Mission Hills can lure the cream of professional golf to the event in future years, says club vice-president Valen Tan.

'It's no longer just an issue of big money,' said Malaysian-born Tan, a former pro who plied his trade on the regional circuit throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.

'All these boys earn big bucks. It's more about the experience they have when they come and play the tournament. It's about how the players are looked after from the moment they step off the plane.'

Although the World Cup already boasts an impressive US$5.5 million prize pot and stellar field, Tan, says the way the tournament is organised is crucial to its future success in bringing together golf's elite.

'The enthusiasm for the World Cup is there. It's no different to the Masters or the Open Championship in terms of how the event is run. [But] the players have so many [event] options. If you look at the PGA Tour calendar there are 48 tournaments during the year and the majority of them are worth over US$5 million.

'Players have a number of events they want to play; the question is: do they want to play at the World Cup? Everything we do is catered for them.

'We want them to come and experience and then go home and talk about what a fantastic tournament it is. That's our goal and it's going to make the event stronger and stronger every year,' says Tan, who worked as deputy executive director of the Asian PGA Tour during its fledgling years,

The organisers are also appealing to the players' families by creating a vacation-like atmosphere during the week.

'We want the families involved,' says Tan. 'The great thing about Mission Hills is that we have everything in place. We can offer spas and tennis but we also arrange sightseeing trips and cultural events. We've brought in master chefs. We offer the whole package. Everything is done to ease their experience. We've left no stone unturned.'

Although last year's event was the result of 'working very hard to put things into place', even Tan couldn't have predicted the size of the galleries that attended during the week. 'That was something else,' he says.

'With the exception of the Japanese and Koreans, Asians are generally not great spectators. They like to play, not watch. But I was taken aback by the huge turnout. It was amazing.'

According to the club, nearly 150,000 fans made the trip to the event last year, a number that 'exceeded all expectations'.

'It's now a much more mature audience,' said Tan. 'The spectators are affluent, experienced and far more knowledgeable than in the past. They're true golf fans and their numbers were huge by any standard. It's a reflection of the event's success.

'You can't stop learning. I've been in golf for 26 years and I know you can't stop learning.'