Deep divisions within Asian golf, coupled with the global economic crisis, have left the sport struggling after years of unprecedented growth.
Since the beginning of the year the newly-created OneAsia Tour and the long-standing Asian Tour have traded insults as each tries to gain the upper hand in a highly lucrative business still ripe for further expansion.
OneAsia plans to bring together Tours from China, Korea, Japan, India, and Australia to form a ‘super series’ that can rival the European and US Tours. ‘‘
But their pre-emptive move has angered the Asian Tour, which claims OneAsia has breached the spirit of the game and left too many questions unanswered, like who will run the new entity and how revenues will be shared.
The fallout is that Asian Tour players will boycott this week’s China Open, the first stop on OneAsia’s limited inaugural schedule, while the second stop, the Beijing Open, has been called off with sponsors uneasy about the spat.
Both used to be Asian Tour events, meaning loss of opportunity for players.
The global economic meltdown is also hurting the sport with the Jaidee Invitational in Thailand cancelled last week after the sponsor, Raimon Land, pulled out.
While several new events have been added to the Asian Tour this year, at least five tournaments that featured in 2008 have been cancelled or postponed.
They include the Emaar-MGF Indian Masters, BMW Asian Open, Philippine Open, Bangkok Airways Open and the Thailand PGA Championship.
It all adds up to tough times.
Asian Tour chief Kyi Hla Han acknowledges this, but told AFP he was confident the tide will soon turn.
“It goes without saying that the world economy is a source of concern for everyone, and my counterparts in Europe and America have suffered as a result of the financial crisis, as much, if not more than we have in Asia,” he said.
“However, without being overly bullish, there is a global expectation that Asia will recover sooner than the rest and the Asian Tour is strongly positioned for that recovery.”
As worrying for Han, who has been at the helm since 2006, is the fallout with OneAsia.
At the annual meeting of the six-member International Federation of PGA Tours at The Masters in Augusta last week, Han and OneAsia, represented by PGA of Australia head Max Garske, set out their respective positions.
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