Asian Tour chief executive Mike Kerr believes golf on the continent is experiencing an upward swing after the first half of his organisation’s 2015 calendar confirmed new tournaments in Thailand, Mauritius and Malaysia.
The Thailand Classic at Black Mountain Golf Club, Hua Hin; the Mauritius Open at Heritage Golf Club and the Vascory Classic at Templer Park Country Club in Malaysia will be held in February, May and August respectively.
The Mauritius Open is one of five events that the Asian Tour co-sanctions in association with the European Tour, predominantly comprised of the latter’s ‘Asian swing’ and the European Masters in Switzerland – the only event under the collaboration to take place in Europe.
Following an absence in 2014, the Indian Open returns during the third week of February next year, where it follows the Malaysian Open and the inaugural Thailand Classic as the third stop in the new season.
The Indian Open and the Thailand Classic also fall into the co-sanctioned category and Kerr believes this underlines Asia as golf’s prime growth destination.
“It really highlights that Asia is where the growth is going to be,” Kerr told the AFP news agency. “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 tournaments. The co-sanctioned program has been very successful for us. 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."
Competition from the OneAsia tour, the loss of the flagship Singapore Open and the lack of a title sponsor for the Hong Kong Open are among the issues the Asian Tour has needed to address over recent times. But, following the culmination of its 2014 season with Arjun Atwal’s (pictured) victory at the Dubai Open, Kerr is broadly satisfied with the outlook.
“Am I happy with where the Asian Tour is at the moment? I think I am,” he added. “Obviously we would love to have more tournaments, more purses, and more opportunities for the players but it takes time. 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. 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.”
However, Kerr concedes that it is unlikely that Asia will one day host a fifth major, to add to the sport’s historic Masters, US Open, British Open and PGA titles. “It's difficult to think that you could create a major,” he said. “Just to think you can throw money at an event and therefore call it a major I don't think is realistic. But I do think you will get more substantial tournaments in this part of the world.”