KARACHI: It wasn’t as festive as last time out but this year’s CNS Open Golf Championship is offering excitement of a different kind.
There was a clutter of cameras around Commander Karachi Vice Admiral Mohammad Amjad Khan Niazi as he performed the ceremonial tee off in a blaze of colour after declaring open the 24th edition of the tournament here at the Karachi Golf Club on Tuesday but there wasn’t the same anticipation as last year when Pakistan’s golfing community held its collective breath for the first Asian Tour event in Pakistan in 11 years.
“It is impossible for the CNS Open to be an Asian Tour event every year,” Amjad told reporters, referring to last year when the CNS Open was on the Asian Tour calendar and featured some of the continent’s prominent golfers.
“It requires a lot of money in sponsorship and the cost of organising is very high but the Pakistan Navy [the organisers of the tournament] has made a pledge that we will make it an Asian Tour event every fifth year.”
Foreign golfers will be missing in action this time around but there is great anticipation around rising local hope Ahmed Baig for the upcoming edition of Pakistan’s most lucrative golf tournament which tees off from Thursday.
Earlier this month, the youngster lifted his first title as a professional when he won the Sindh Open ahead of his more illustrious rivals including Matloob Ahmed, Mohammad Munir and Shabbir Iqbal, who is seeking his 12th triumph at the CNS Open.
Ahmed had his moments at last year’s CNS Open, emerging as a surprise first-round leader where he went toe to toe with the more-favoured foreign professionals before fading away.
This year, he is hoping he doesn’t fade away. “I feel good and I am looking for more this month,” Ahmed told Dawn on Tuesday.
A good performance will aid Ahmed’s ambitions of playing on the Asian Tour. “Last year, playing with the international golfers offered the level of competition on which I want to play regularly,” he said. “The objective is to do well in these tournaments and collect enough amount in prize money that I can go to the Asian Tour Qualifying School.”
Ahmed’s arrival on the scene is being welcomed by his competitors.
“We’ve played quite a lot of golf,” Matloob told Dawn on Tuesday, referring to himself, Shabbir and Munir, “…so it’s good to have new competition. It makes me very happy to see Ahmed since he plays with me at our club [Lahore Garrison] and I hope he goes far.”
Matloob, who last won the CNS Open in 2016, enters this year’s tournament with a back injury suffered during the Sindh Open.
“I am in a bit of pain but I will play through it,” he said. “The CNS Open is a tournament that you don’t want to miss.”
But was there disappointment at this year’s event not being on the Asian Tour? “Of course, there is greater incentive if a tournament is on the Asian Tour but we do understand that it will take time for Pakistan to regularly host those events,” added Matloob.
Munir echoed Matloob’s views.
“I was preparing for this thinking it will be an Asian Tour event but were told it wouldn’t be happening this year,” Munir , who last triumphed at the CNS Open in 2015 and was the best local finisher at last year’s Asian Tour event, told Dawn.
“Nonetheless I will be giving my best,” added Munir who said his golf was going “through a bad patch.”
Munir welcomed Ahmed’s challenge but reminded the youngster that he will have to keep working hard to live up to the hype.
Ahmed wasn’t even born when the first edition of the CNS Open was held in 1995. This year, he will have his chance to light up what has become the country’s leading golf tournament.
Pigeons, dyed in bright colours, filled up the sky following Tuesday’s ceremonial tee-off. Ahmed and the rest of the field will hope to have birdies and eagles in the air at the KGC over the weekend.
Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2019