The Asian Tour is looking to expand into new markets in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Laos, its executive chairman Kyi Hlan Han told AFP, insisting other tournaments wouldn’t “fall off” despite a difficult year for golf in the region.
The tour chief said the golfing body was also working hard to make sure a postponed event in Vietnam goes ahead and indicated that a stop in Cambodia could be re-introduced to its calendar.
“We’re out there trying to look into new markets,” he said in Hong Kong where he was attending the southern Chinese city’s Open, co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the European Tour.
“There are still other countries in Asia who are trying to do golf tournaments and we’re always trying to grow and get more prize money into each tournament,” Kyi Hla Han added.
Asia’s busy golf season has lost several tournaments recently including the Avantha Masters, which was India’s only European-sanctioned event and will not be played next year.
The flagship Singapore Open, once dubbed “Asia’s major”, has taken a year’s break after being unable to find a title sponsor while the Asian Tour in August was forced to postpone the inaugural Vietnam Masters to an as yet unconfirmed date.
Kyi Hla Han said his organisation was still “pursuing” the competition in Vietnam while exploring other avenues in South and Southeast Asia.
“Right now there are a lot of courses being built in Cambodia and in Laos,” he said.
“We’re looking at Sri Lanka. Even Bangladesh. They’ve got Siddikur (Rahman) who’s playing fantastic. So there’s a lot of interest there.
“We’re trying to make governments aware that it (a tournament) brings a lot of prestige and profile to the countries. So that’s what we try to sell,” he added without committing to timescales.
Cambodia has been without an Asian Tour tournament since the Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open ended in 2010 after four years.
Kyi Hla Han, a former professional golfer from Myanmar, said the Asian Tour wanted to boost the status of his home country’s open which has a $300,000 prize fund.
“It’s still small and we want to grow it. Now with the government opening up, a lot of foreign companies going there, we feel that is one of the tournaments we can grow definitely in the near future.”
Kyi Hla Han said he didn’t expect any more tournaments to disappear from the Asian Tour schedule but admitted administrators have a tough job attracting and keeping sponsors in an increasingly competitive arena.
“Nowadays the sponsors are more savvy with their business development. They have high expectations so we just have to work harder to basically try to deliver,” he said.
“I don’t think they (more tournaments) will fall off. It’s just a matter of what we can deliver at different times of the year and of course a lot depends on the expectations of players.”
There are fears over the future of this week’s Hong Kong Open which is without a title sponsor and has failed to attract its usual star names.
On Monday, rival tour OneAsia said 2013 was a “year of consolidation” as it axed the inaugural OneAsia Championship after failing to attract enough big names.
Earlier, the Charity High1 Resort Open also dropped off the calendar.
“We’ve seen over five years OneAsia have not been able to grow so I’m not going to really worry about it anymore,” Kyi Hla Han said.
“We will always continue to have to grow, in opportunities and prize money for the players. That’s what we are focusing on.”
By Peter Hutchison (AFP)