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.
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.