PGA Tour hopes to in­spire play­ers, fans in Asia

Bangkok Post - - GOLF - CHUAH CHOO CHI­ANG

The PGA Tour’s an­nual Oc­to­ber fest, fea­tur­ing three tour­na­ments at three des­ti­na­tions and a whop­ping US$26.5 mil­lion in to­tal prize money, has be­gun with the on­go­ing CIMB Clas­sic in Malaysia.

It is be­com­ing a won­der­ful tra­di­tion for the game in the Far East when fans wel­come and cel­e­brate some of the best golfers on the planet in suc­ces­sive weeks with the CIMB Clas­sic in Malaysia, CJ Cup in South Korea and World Golf Cham­pi­onship­sHSBC Cham­pi­ons in China.

Mega events at­tract the big­gest stars of the game who de­liver the glitz, glam and fire­works on the fair­ways and it prom­ises to be a glo­ri­ous stretch of tour­na­ments in a re­gion widely ac­knowl­edged as the game’s big­gest growth op­por­tu­nity.

From Dustin John­son to Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka to Justin Thomas, Francesco Moli­nari to Hideki Mat­suyama and Pa­trick Reed to Rory McIl­roy, many of th­ese su­per­stars have punched their tick­ets to Asia in chase of top dol­lar, early-sea­son 201819 FedEx Cup points and ul­ti­mately be a part of a tour which is driv­ing the growth of the game around the world.

“The PGA Tour is a global or­gan­i­sa­tion, we’ve got a global mem­ber­ship and we are an im­por­tant part of a global sport,” said PGA Tour com­mis­sioner Jay Mon­a­han.

The $9.5 mil­lion CJ Cup, the new­est ad­di­tion to the PGA Tour’s sched­ule last sea­son, will see Thomas re­turn­ing to Jeju is­land in search of a fourth win in the re­gion be­fore Asia’s lone World Golf Cham­pi­onships event, the WGC-HSBC Cham­pi­ons, con­cludes the fes­tiv­i­ties with Justin Rose, the ti­tle holder, head­lin­ing the starry field in She­shan In­ter­na­tional Golf Club.

When Mon­a­han vis­ited the in­au­gu­ral CJ Cup last year, he told the Korean me­dia that the tour hoped to in­spire many more golfers into the sport, which re­port­edly now has more than 80 mil­lion peo­ple play­ing the game glob­ally.

Asia’s grow­ing mid­dle-class seg­ment is ex­pected to raise the fig­ures in the years to come.

“It’s an hon­our to be in this golf crazed mar­ket [South Korea] and it re­ally is a re­mark­able mar­ket place for golf. I think as you look to today and look to the fu­ture and in fact if you look to the past, 10 years from now and be­yond, we hope we are in­spir­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of fans and new gen­er­a­tion of play­ers by hav­ing the best play­ers of the world here in South Korea for the CJ Cup,” said Mon­a­han.

The stars too have also em­braced the tour’s vi­sion with both hands. Not only do they en­joy the op­por­tu­nity to per­form in front of new fans, the di­verse cul­tures from one city to the next has been a strong pull in their de­ci­sions to ven­ture abroad.

“The game is so global now,” said CIMB Clas­sic de­fend­ing cham­pion Pat Perez.

“I think it’s awe­some that the tour’s ex­panded out­side the United States.”

Xan­der Schauf­fele, the 2017 rookie of the year, epit­o­mises the game’s facet best.

“I have a very in­ter­na­tional back­ground … my dad’s half French, half Ger­man. My mom’s Tai­wanese, grew up in Ja­pan. So it’s cool that golf has al­lowed me to start here in Malaysia, then Korea, then China. If you want to be one of the best play­ers in the world, you have to be a global player. You have to col­lect fans in dif­fer­ent coun­tries and play well in dif­fer­ent coun­tries,” the Amer­i­can said.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the PGA Tour’s col­lab­o­ra­tion with other golf bod­ies in­clud­ing the Asian Tour, Korean PGA and China Golf As­so­ci­a­tion have pro­vided pos­i­tive in­flu­ences as well, as ex­plained by In­dia’s Anir­ban Lahiri.

“I think this is a great, great plat­form. For a lot of the young play­ers, it will be the first step. But you never know where that path leads, so it’s great,” said Lahiri, now a reg­u­lar on the PGA Tour.

Mon­a­han is con­vinced the PGA Tour’s foot­print in Asia can fur­ther con­trib­ute to­wards the game’s grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity.

“One of the six tenets to our mis­sion state­ment is to grow the game, and any time we are ac­tively grow­ing, di­ver­si­fy­ing, de­vel­op­ing the game, open­ing new mar­kets, hope­fully ev­ery­body that’s in­volved in the game is ben­e­fit­ting,” he said.

PGA Tour com­mis­sioner Jay Mon­a­han.

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