After a year-long hiatus due to the pandemic, the continent’s main golf circuit, the Asian Tour, hopes to get back into the swing of things in the second quarter of this year.
Its chief executive Cho Minn Thant told The Straits Times that while the revised target date is “entirely dependent on the Covid-19 situation stabilising in the region… when the relevant local governments feel it is safe to approve controlled travel for events, we will be ready to pull the trigger immediately”.
The Tour, which in 2019 had 24 events in 13 countries offering prize money of US$25 million (S$33.3 million), was halted after the Malaysia Open on March 7.
It had hoped to resume with a series of events in South Korea, Taiwan and Japan as well as a mini-swing in India – 10 to 12 events in total from September to December. But those plans were eventually scuppered due to travel and quarantine restrictions.
This year’s SMBC Singapore Open, traditionally the Tour’s season-opener in January, was cancelled due to the Covid-19 situation around the world, organisers said last week.
Cho noted: “Our Tour has remained resilient, taken all appropriate steps to manage the crisis, and is well placed to resume in the near future.
“We are continually working with governments to enable special dispensation for quarantine reductions and bubble concepts for safe operation, as well as seriously considering alternative options such as resuming in areas outside of our typical footprint in Asia.”
Singapore’s No. 1 golfer Quincy Quek, who splits his time between the PGA Tour Series-China – which has been cancelled for the second straight season – and the Asian Tour’s second-tier Asian Development Tour, was less hopeful.
The 33-year-old, who earned about $100,000 in prize money in 2019, said: “I think it’s hard to do bubbles in Asia because most of the golfers come from abroad and if you limit the tournaments to just Asia-based golfers, it won’t be fair to exclude the others.
“It’s an unforeseen situation and I got to take it as it comes. At least I have had an avenue to do some coaching during this period and spend more time with my family.”
Fellow Singaporean professional Mardan Mamat turned 53 last October and last won an Asian Tour title in 2015, but the veteran remains as enthusiastic as ever about returning to competitive action.
He said: “We have to remain patient… With the news of vaccines being made available, perhaps a timeline of resuming play after June is something that can be looked at.”
While Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia have been able to restart their domestic circuits and provide their players with some sources of income, the situation is different here, said Singapore Professional Golfers’ Association president M. Murugiah.
He noted that courses being oversubscribed has also not helped.
“Because everyone is stuck here and not able to get out of the country, to play in Batam or Malaysia, so the demand in the country is high. So it has proven almost impossible for us to book a course for two or three days and stage an event.”
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