Ly­ing Out of Bounds

Fe­bru­ary 8, 2015 was a joy­ous date for In­dian Anir­ban Lahiri who scored a fi­nal round four-un­der 68 to beat Aus­trian Bernd Wies­berger by one stroke to win the 53rd Malaysian Open at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Coun­try Club.

Golf Digest (Malaysia) - - Contents 01/18 - BY ROGER RO­DRIGO

When will the Malaysian Open be staged again? We an­a­lyze what caused the death of the na­tional open and look at its sto­ried past.

It will also no­to­ri­ously be penned in as the last time the Malaysian Open was staged. Af­ter more than half a cen­tury, the Na­tional Open has dis­ap­peared from the hori­zon.

The rea­sons why this hap­pened is still murky though the grapevine in­di­cates that a dis­pute arose between the tour­na­ment’s cus­to­di­ans, the Malaysian Golf As­so­ci­a­tion (MGA) and the pro­mot­ers, Glob­alOne in the May­bank spon­sored event.

It was a case of MGA’s dis­sat­is­fac­tion with Glob­alOne for rea­sons as clear as a blind shot to a hid­den green. Whether it was a kind of chess game by MGA to bump off the pro­mot­ers in favour of an­other party was part of the story go­ing around.

If in­deed it was such a move, it back­fired as long-time spon­sors of the Malaysian Open, May­bank de­cided to stay with the pro­mot­ers. As a re­sult of the rift, May­bank saw the op­por­tu­nity of run­ning its own flag­ship event and thus, the May­bank Cham­pi­onship was born in 2016.

The dis­ap­point­ment is not in the de­vel­op­ment of this is­sue or who to blame, where flaps can arise from time to time in long­stand­ing re­la­tion­ship, but rooted in the lack of pas­sion and ef­fort to re­store the event that best rep­re­sents our na­tional golf­ing pride.

Peo­ple who at­tend our Malaysian Opens, who have been vol­un­teers serv­ing as mar­shals, starters and what have you, will un­der­stand the deep sig­nif­i­cance of this pres­ti­gious cham­pi­onship.

For those who haven’t got it yet, this sim­ply put is our Ma­jor. While we have not suc­ceeded in putting a Malaysian’s name on the Sea­gram tro­phy, it is still a mag­nif­i­cent hon­our en­joyed by 53 cham­pi­ons since 1962 when a tall Syd­ney pro­fes­sional by the name of Frank Sif­ford Phillips won the in­au­gu­ral tour­na­ment at the Royal Se­lan­gor Golf Club.

The tour­na­ment has en­joyed spon­sor­ship from three par­ties from Ben­son and Hedges (Malayan To­bacco Com­pany) which started in 1984 till 1999, Carls­berg Brew­ery Malaysia from 2000-2005 and May­bank from 2006-2015. Be­fore that the Open was spon­sored on a mul­ti­ple spon­sor­ship ba­sis.

Cur­rently as far as it is known, the Na­tional Opens

of our neigh­bours, namely Thai­land, In­done­sia, Sin­ga­pore and the Philip­pines, have all re­turned to reg­u­lar staffing each year while our Na­tional Open has not been held for the past two years.

This is an out­right dis­grace, al­low­ing for such a lu­mi­nary event to dis­ap­pear into the rough. There could have been ways to save the Open even if an out­right sole spon­sor could not be found.

If we look at the PGM Tour there are many small events spon­sored by com­pa­nies but in to­tal it of­fers RM3 mil­lion in prize­money and serves as an im­por­tant source of liveli­hood for our lo­cal pros.

Many com­pa­nies may be in­ter­ested pro­vided they do not have to un­der­take the lion’s share of the fund­ing. The shared con­cept or mul­ti­spon­sor­ship could have been ex­plored.

The ef­fort could have been made em­ploy­ing a mul­ti­ple spon­sor­ship con­cept to keep the Open alive, pos­si­bly not on the scale that it has been op­er­at­ing since it be­came a part of the Euro­pean tour in 1999.

If the choice had to be made just to keep the Open run­ning that we had to step out of the Euro­pean Tour and just run it on the Asian Tour event sched­ule, then so be it. It should be in the minds of de­ci­sion-mak­ers to at all cost, not al­low the Na­tional Open to cease.

Yet the unimag­in­able has taken place and with each pass­ing minute it will be be­come harder to bring it back to life.

The MGA are the only ones that can re­vive the cham­pi­onship. A sport with­out a na­tional cham­pi­onship is like a ship with­out a cap­tain. We will drift into golf­ing wilder­ness if we haven’t al­ready done so.

For the sake of Malaysian golf, some­thing, any­thing, must be done and fast be­fore the legacy left be­hind by this great cham­pi­onship dies an un­nat­u­ral death.

Lee West­wood cel­e­brates his vic­tory in 2014.

P. Gu­nasagaran

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