Asian Tour CEO Mike Kerr relishing good times ahead for golf in the continent

Sport360 staff 08:12 23/12/2014
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Charting the course: Mike Kerr (r), CEO, Asian Tour, is confident there will be more standalone events for his members this year.

 Asian Tour CEO Mike Kerr says the outlook for golf in the continent is positive again after a difficult few years which saw tournaments scrapped and sponsors hard to find.

The region received a boost last month when the European Tour announced it had added a new ‘Asian swing’ to its 2015 schedule with events in Malaysia, Thailand and India.

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February will see the long-estab­lished Maybank Malaysian Open followed by two new co-sanctioned Asian Tour and European Tour events – the $2 million Thailand Classic and the Hero Indian Open.

“It really highlights that Asia is where the growth is going to be,” Kerr said. “If you look at the two more established markets, the US and certainly western Europe, they are fairly saturated.

“You’re going to get organic growth in those markets but you’re not going to get many new events.”

The Asian Tour enjoyed a boom period before leaner economic times and greater competition after the arrival of the rival OneAsia tour in 2009 hampered the growth.

Two flagship events – both co-sanctioned with the European Tour – suffered.

The Singapore Open, once touted as ‘Asia’s major’, was sidelined and the Hong Kong Open left without a title sponsor.

Hong Kong still lacks a headline backer but the European Tour has underlined its importance with a key slot on next year’s calendar – just before the ‘Final Series’.

“The co-sanctioned programme has been very successful for us,” said Kerr. “It allows Asian players to play against some of the best in the world. I see us working closer and in more tournaments and more markets around the world in the fu­ture,” he added.

Kerr said the Asian Tour was also looking to increase the number of its standalone events, pointing out that the Vascory Classic in Malaysia had been added to 2015 calendar.

“Am I happy with where the Asian Tour is at the moment? I think I am. Obviously, we would love to have more tournaments, more purses, and more opportunities for the players but it takes time,” he said.

“What we want to do is develop a sustainable tour. We don’t want a flash-in-the-pan event coming in and off the schedule which has in some ways happened in the past,” he added.

“Certainly, over the past couple of years we’ve had a fairly rough time and things have been quite tight but I think we can see that we are starting to come out of that situ­ation.”

Kerr, who earlier this year said he couldn’t rule out a potential al­liance with OneAsia, said market forces were likely to mean golf tours around the world merging in some way in the future.

“Golf as a professional sport is very fragmented globally. I think there will definitely be consolida­tion,” he said.

“There has to be if the sport is going to continue to grow and be healthy.”

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