How do you assess the growth of the professional game in Thailand? Do you see more Asian Tour events here on the horizon?
Kyi Hla Han
We are delighted to partner with Thailand to develop the game at the highest level in Thailand. The success of Thongchai Jaidee, Boonchu Ruangkit, Prayad Marksaeng, Thaworn Wiratchant, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Arnond Vongvanij and many other Thai players have also contributed towards greater awareness of the quality of stars who are playing on the Asian Tour.
Sponsors get excited when they see players from their country achieving success on the Asian Tour and with golf returning to the Olympics [in 2016], it has created a greater impetus and purpose for multinationals and corporations to throw their support behind the Asian Tour.
We will continue to seek opportunities to create more tournaments in Thailand. This year, we already welcomed the Chiangmai Golf Classic as a new event while the established tournaments include the the King's Cup, Queen's Cup and Thailand Golf Championship.
Is the Asian Tour keeping channels open to get the Thailand Open back on the Asian Tour?
We have an open-door policy. For example, the Indonesian Open will this year return to the Asian Tour schedule later this year after several years with the OneAsia series.
The Asian Tour has experienced fast growth in the last 10 years. Looking forward, can we expect it to keep growing at its current rate?
We have experienced substantial growth since the Asian Tour was formed as a player-led organisation in 2004. At the start of our 2013 season which marked our milestone 10th season, we subsequently outlined a 10-year vision which included having a full season of 38 to 39 events with a total prize fund of over US$100 million by 2023.
We also hope to have more than 10 Asian Tour members playing in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro which we are very confident of achieving.
This year, the Asian Tour has welcomed new tournaments such as the Chiangmai Golf Classic, Solaire Open, Vietnam Masters and Manila Masters while Canon and Saxo Capital Markets signed up as tour partners. The signs are very positive for the Asian Tour and we are confident of maintaining our steady growth in the years to come.
The Asian Tour has seen an increase in the number of professionals on the tour year to year. What is the reason?
Players understand the Asian Tour offers a strong career path for them through a proper structure which is similar to that of the PGA Tour and European Tour. The Asian Development Tour, launched in 2010, is very successful as well which creates additional playing opportunities for golfers from all over the world if they cannot play on the Asian Tour. All our tournaments have world golf ranking status.
Earlier this year, we enjoyed a record of nearly 800 golfers playing in our qualifying school, which is a wonderful endorsement from the players from around the world.
The Asian Tour has also kept growing the number of events on the tour each year. Can you tell us how many events you had when you started the Tour 10 years ago? How many events are there this year? Do you expect to keep growing the tour at this rate?
When we first launched the Asian Tour in 2004, we staged 22 events which offered US$12 million in total prize money. This season, we will hold 27 event in excess of US$40 million.
We are confident of reaching our goal of 38 to 39 events with a total prize fund of over US$100 million by 2023.
Thailand is certainly one of our strongest partners and it is only through strong partnerships that we are able to achieve our goal of creating more playing opportunities for our players.
There are more and more jointly sanctioned events on the Asian Tour this year. Is this number destined to grow? Is this a key part of your strategy?
We have a very strong partnership with The European Tour, Japan Golf Tour and PGA Tour, which we co-sanction a total of seven tournaments a year. Through the co-sanction programme, our members have the opportunity to fast-track their careers and broaden their playing horizons.
For example, Kiradech Aphibarnrat earned playing rights in Europe after winning the co-sanctioned Malaysian Open in March and he will certainly become a great player by competing in Europe.
Thongchai Jaidee and India's Jeev Milkha Singh also took similar routes where they are now rated as among the best players in the world.
The wonderful thing is that even though our members have earned playing rights on other tours, they still fully support the Asian Tour and regard us as their home tour.