GOLF

'Good times lie ahead' for ailing Asian Tour

Chief executive Mike Kerr admits regional circus is facing challenges in the short term, but he insists solutions are in the pipeline

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 May, 2014, 10:37pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 May, 2014, 9:53am
AFP

Share

Better times are around the corner for regional golf after a lull in fortunes left some players struggling to make a living, Asian Tour chief executive Mike Kerr insists.

Kerr also opened the door for the first time to the possibility of discussions at some point in the future with its rival regional tour, OneAsia, about some form of alliance.

He admitted it was a "challenging" time for Asian golf with sponsors hard to find and only seven confirmed stroke play events on this year's Asian Tour schedule so far.

I don't think that anything is off the table. There are two fundamental issues, one is TV rights and the other is structure
Mike Kerr

But Kerr said the Asian Tour was about to announce another four tournaments for the coming months and hoped to have a total of 25 by the end of the year, the same as last season.

Kerr's comments came after golfers at last week's Championship in Singapore voiced unhappiness at a shortage of playing opportunities.

"I can understand some of the frustrations that they may have at this point," Kerr said at the Asian Tour's headquarters in Singapore.

"There have been some external factors that have meant that maybe our ability to announce events has been somewhat restricted.

"But come the end of the year, we're going to have a similar number of tournaments [to last year], if not more, in what is a fairly tough year."

Kerr said he would meet players next week and try to address their concerns.

But in a sign of the changing landscape, he also said he could not rule out a potential alliance with OneAsia - something which he had previously dismissed.

"I don't think that anything is off the table. There are two fundamental issues, one is TV rights and the other is structure," he said.

"One way or the other, there is going to be consolidation in the Asian market ... But that doesn't necessarily mean that Coke and Pepsi have to jump into bed together."

Kerr said uncertainty over elections in India and also political unrest in Thailand, both key countries for the Asian Tour, had hit attempts to organise tournaments this year.

But he conceded that with playing opportunities staying flat for at least the short-term, some golfers in the region may be forced out of the game.

"This is just like any other sport and indeed any other profession, where those who are successful continue, and continue to grow and rise to the top," he said.

"Those who are not so successful struggle and may have to find something else to do. It's tough, but that's the world that we live in - that's reality.

"All I can continue to do is to help to steer the organisation ... and deliver more opportunities for the players to earn money. But I can't come inside the ropes and tell them what club to hit."

After a boom period for the Asian Tour schedule, growth has petered out, hit by leaner economic times and more competition following the arrival of the rival OneAsia tour in 2009.

Flagship events have suffered with the Singapore Open, once touted as "Asia's major", sidelined and the Hong Kong Open also without a title sponsor.

Last week's Championship was moved from South Korea to Singapore at the last minute after also losing its main backer, Ballantine's, after six editions.

At the US$1.5 million event, Singaporean veteran Mardan Mamat - whose earnings are at just over US$4,000 for the year - said players were concerned over their ability to make a living.

"You need to play good at these big events otherwise you won't make much income," he said.