Golf: Members to guide course of action, says Asian Tour chairman

The continued well-being of the Asian Tour is the top priority for board chairman Jimmy Masrin. He said: "The final decision to proceed with any partnership, if any, will require our members' majority approval."
The continued well-being of the Asian Tour is the top priority for board chairman Jimmy Masrin. He said: "The final decision to proceed with any partnership, if any, will require our members' majority approval." PHOTO: COURTESY OF JIMMY MASRIN

Asian Tour future not reliant on proposed partnership with European counterparts

New Asian Tour board chairman Jimmy Masrin is adamant that even if the proposed partnership with the European Tour fails to materialise, the former will continue to flourish.

In his first interview with Singapore media since his appointment in January, the Indonesian businessman told The Straits Times: "The primary focus... is to always ensure we continue to provide our members with playing and earning opportunities as well as a clear career pathway - with or without partnerships with other international Tours.

"We need to remain united and committed... while at the same time continuing to work with existing sponsors to get them to commit to multi-year sponsorships."

When it was first announced last August that the two Tours would be merged into a mega-tour, it created a rift in the Asian Tour.

While some players welcomed the chance to ply their trade in Europe, playing against stronger competition and for potentially bigger pay cheques, others feared the influx of European players into Asian events would affect their opportunities to earn a living.

Negotiations between the two Tours stalled and the unrest led to Asian Tour chief executive Mike Kerr resigning from his post, followed by a major shake-up of the Tour's board of directors.

MEMBERS ARE THE PRIORITY

The primary focus... is to always ensure we continue to provide our members with playing and earning opportunities as well as a clear career pathway - with or without partnerships with other international Tours.

JIMMY MASRIN, Asian Tour board chairman, on the Tour's proposed move to merge with the European Tour.

Talks with their European counterparts have since resumed "with a stronger relationship with our players" but nothing is iron-clad, noted Masrin, president and chief executive officer of Indonesian chemicals and mining firm Caturkarsa Megatunggal.

The 53-year-old added: "The final decision to proceed with any partnership, if any, will require our members' majority approval... if the board fails to convince the members, we have to accept that perhaps the suggested course of action is not the best course to take."

One thing is certain, though. Professional golf in the region has seen cutbacks.

In 2008, the Asian Tour had 31 events - excluding the four Majors and four World Golf Championships - on its schedule, with about US$45 million (S$62 million) on offer.

Last year, there were 20 events with a combined US$28.88 million while the 2016 schedule - the full list was released last week - shows 23 events with total prize money of US$31.57 million.

The creation of an Asia-Europe circuit may bring in new sponsors but it also raises a lot of unanswered questions.

Both Tours currently have their respective qualifying schools but neither side has released details about how membership for the new mega-tour would be determined. Nor have they been able to offer a realistic time frame for when the new entity would be up and running.

The future of the 20-stop, US$1.4 million Asian Development Tour (ADT), a lower-tier competition for newer players to hone their game before progressing to the main Asian Tour, is safe though.

Said Masrin, who founded the US$750,000 Indonesian Masters on the Asian Tour: "Maintaining the role of the ADT in Asian golf is very important to us as it is a feeder to the Asian Tour and a platform for emerging players to cut their professional teeth."

While the likes of Australian former world No. 1 Adam Scott and 2010 British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa are among some leading stars who have pulled out of August's Rio Olympics, Masrin believes the addition of golf at the Summer Games is crucial.

The Asian Tour has at least 12 members (as of May 3) inside the top-60 qualifying list and the impact will be huge should any of them return from Brazil with a medal.

Said Masrin: "It would serve to reinforce the fact that our guys are world class and prove once again that the Asian Tour brand and our platform are very much capable of producing Olympic medal winners and international champions."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2016, with the headline 'Members to guide course of action'. Print Edition | Subscribe