‘Asian Tour event will see Pakistan return to international golfing map’

Published August 2, 2018
KARACHI: Sindh Golf Association president Asad I.A. Khan (second L) speaks during a news conference on Wednesday.—Umaid Wasim
KARACHI: Sindh Golf Association president Asad I.A. Khan (second L) speaks during a news conference on Wednesday.—Umaid Wasim

KARACHI: The upcoming Asian Tour event is dominating all talk in Pakistan’s golfing circles at the moment. At least, of course, till it’s held in October. Then, maybe, the talk will shift to its legacy.

The CNS Open Golf Champio­nship at the Karachi Golf Club is being so eagerly awaited that even though the press club on Wednesday was the venue for the news conference to announce the holding of the Sindh Open Golf Champi­onship, which will be played this weekend, the discussion centred on the Asian Tour event that is still two months away.

“It’s a huge event that will see Pakistan return to the international golfing map,” Sindh Golf Associa­tion (SGA) president Asad I.A. Khan told reporters. “It’s taken a long time to come back but better late than never.”

Asad was quick to praise both Pakistan Navy and the KGC for playing a vital role in bringing the Asian Tour back to the country.

“They’ve undertaken a lot of effort, most importantly arranging for the financial guarantees that the Asian Tour has to be given,” he said.

Elaborating on the financial requirements, Asad added: “A prize purse of $300,000 has to be promised. Furthermore a similar amount is to be required for the operational costs since the event will see international golfers come and take part so they’ve gone out and also got the sponsors to ensure that.”

This year’s CNS Open will be the first top-level international golf tournament in the country since 2007. The last scheduled event in 2008 was cancelled over security concerns.

By joining the Asian Tour, the CNS Open will receive Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points and give local golfers an opportunity to play alongside some of the region’s leading players. A field of more than 80 golfers, including both Asian Tour and European Tour winners, is expected to compete at the Oct 11-14 tournament.

Asad, however, said it was sad that local golfers wouldn’t be able to get much of a share of the bumper prize money on offer.

“We need to improve the standard of golf in the country and we’re working towards that,” he said. “From the prize purse on offer at the CNS Open, I think hardly five or at best 10 of the local golfers will finish in the top 40. But hopefully this event will be a springboard for more.”

TWO DECADES OF SINDH OPEN

For now, the country’s top golfers will spar for the Sindh Open title here at the Arabian Sea Country Club. Friday will mark the start of the 20th edition of the event and the professionals and amateurs categories will be contested over 54 holes.

Senior professionals, junior professionals, senior amateurs, junior amateurs and ladies events will be held over 36 holes. The total prize purse of Rs3 million is on offer for the professionals. A Suzuki Ciaz will also be given to the first golfer who manages a hole-in-one.

In the professionals’ category, Pakistan’s top golfer Shabbir Iqbal is looking to make it five Sindh Open titles in a row this year. Since he grabbed the crown after a three-year lapse in 2014, no one has been able to displace Shabbir from his perch at the event.

A number of golfers have come close, most notably last year when both Mohammad Safdar and Mohammad Nazir entered the final round in the lead only to be usurped by a fast-charging Shabbir.

Shabbir is hoping the Arabian Sea Country Club will be kind to him once again. “It’s been a good venue for me,” Shabbir told Dawn on Wednesday. “I will have my first practice round tomorrow to see the conditions and all but so far there seems to be excellent weather for golf.”

With the CNS Open on the horizon, it was only natural that Shabbir is also eyeing it. “The Asian Tour event is one that requires continuous practice for at least three months,” he said.

Asked if the Sindh Open will be a part of his preparation, he added: “The key at an Asian Tour event is confidence. Winning the Sindh Open will definitely boost the confidence heading into the CNS Open.”

DEVELOPMENT TOUR

The Pakistan Golf Federation (PGF) is meanwhile aiming to boost the confidence of second tier of professional golfers by starting the Development Tour, the first event of which concluded here at the Airmen Golf Club on Wednesday.

Mohammad Imran won the three-day event with after shooting a 224. His scores in each round were 71, 77 and 76 respectively. Tahir Nasim finished two strokes behind while Mudassir Iqbal ended in third, another two shots adrift.

The Development Tour is aimed at supporting the second-tier professional golfers who are struggling in their careers. The 40 top-ranked professional golfers aren’t eligible to take part in the events on this tour.

“We’ve taken this step which will benefit the struggling golfers of the country,” Asad, also the PGF vice-president, informed. “This Tour will now move to other provinces of the country. The PGF has decided that the minimum prize money for these events will be Rs1 million.”

Published in Dawn, August 2nd, 2018

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