Continent holds out for hero as Asian golf season kicks off
By Talek Harris ,AFPSINGAPORE -- Asian golf returns this week with the search intensifying for a first global superstar to lead the region into a bright and innovative future — and put its current squabbles in the shade.
February 20, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
With 4 billion people, a growing middle class and thousands of courses, it is seen as just a matter of time before a player of genuine world stature emerges, but the process so far has been frustratingly slow.
As the Asian Tour starts its 10th season with the Zaykabar Myanmar Open on Thursday, Japan's Hiroyuki Fujita, 43, is the sole Asian representative in the world's top 50, with only nine others in the top 100.
South Korea's 41-year-old Y.E. Yang won the 2009 PGA Championship but further successes have been scarce, with Asian players largely unimpressive against their European and American rivals in the region's biggest events last year.
It is a situation tacitly acknowledged by officials with the Asian Tour's eight-point wish list for the next 10 years, unveiled last week, including three Asians in the top 10, three more major-winners and Asia's first superstar.
“Golf is in its infancy in the Asia-Pacific region. It takes time, and it takes time to develop personalities in particular,” tour CEO Mike Kerr told AFP.
“All sport is personality-driven but I think the foundations are there, the fundamentals are there, the growth is going to be there. It (developing stars) won't necessarily happen by itself, it's not that easy.
“But I certainly believe that we are poised now for a period of real and sustainable growth through full-field Asian Tour events and through partnerships with Europe, the PGA Tour, with Japan and with others.”
Asian Tour officials argue that regional golf would be in a better place if not for the standoff with rival circuit OneAsia, which emerged in 2009 and left the two fighting for their share of an increasingly crowded market.
But there is little sign of a ceasefire this year. The Asian Tour is still considering whether to appeal November's important court judgment in Singapore which found it acted illegally by barring players from OneAsia events.