MNRB stays steady with PGM Tour sponsorship

With continued corporate sponsorship and player performance, the standard of professional golf in Malaysia has increased by ‘leaps and bounds’, according to PGM chairman Ahmad Sarji

By SHIV DAS

Another year was added to MNRB Holdings Bhd’s unstinting support for the Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) Tour.

A cheque for RM325,000 was handed over on Sept 5 by MNRB president and group CEO Mohd Din Merican to PGM GM Nik Mustapha Nik Mohamed in the presence of PGM chairman Tun Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid at Bangunan Malaysian RE, Kuala Lumpur.

Speaking at the seventh of such sponsorship for the PGM MNRB Championship held at the Damai Golf and Country Club in Kuching, Sarawak, on Sept 12-15, Ahmad Sarji couldn’t help but extol the value of such support.

“PGM subsists mainly on sponsorship which represents practice of corporate social responsibility and we reciprocate by organising the tournaments efficiently and in accordance with international standards.

“We disburse the funds mainly for prize money, with a small percentage going towards costs. And we are fully mindful of accountability. PGM has its own financial procedures, which are subject to audit.

“We account for every ringgit we spend and make available the accounts for inspection just 10 days or so after the event.”

It is possible to assess the Tour through a Tour book produced at the end of each season. The record shows that at least 10 players had qualified to play on the bigger Asian Tour, which comes with acquiring world ranking points.

Even as he spoke, Gavin Kyle Green had already qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by being ranked well within the Top-300 that represents the cut point.

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Malaysia was represented by the full quota of four players — two men and two women — and that was a feather in their cap, as only 28 countries were represented.

With continued corporate sponsorship and player performance, it is possible to repeat that achievement in 2020. The standard of professional golf in Malaysia had increased by “leaps and bounds”. Before PGM was formed, winning scores at the few tournaments available were mostly above par. And even if they were below, it was just two or three.

“Now with the PGM Tour well underway, it usually takes 10 or more under par to win. Scores of minus 20 or more have been registered.”

Another indicator of the progress made was that Malaysian golfers had burst onto the international scene. What’s heartening was that Malaysians had won on the feeder Asian Development Tour (ADT) and even the Asian Tour.

(Notably, Green had won the Asian Tour title last year, the first Malaysian to do so, and he’s now doing well on the European Tour, placed third in the Czech Masters and 12th in the Omega European Masters in a star-filled cast of world-class players.)

Mohd Din said, “We are proud of the achievements made by PGM. Seeing our Malaysian golfers earning world-ranking points in the Official World Golf Ranking shows that PGM’s efforts have been worthwhile and their continuous effort in promoting and sustaining the development of the sport of golf is showing commendable results.”

For Ahmad Sarji, the fact that PGM was being wooed by golfing associations in Asean — namely Indonesia and more recently the Philippines — is another indication of PGM’s rising stature.

They were taking a page from the Malaysian experience in setting up a professional golf body. PGM was a commercial entity under the Companies Act, rather than the Societies Act, which golf associations generally came under.

The Malaysian Golf Association — dealing with all things amateur and the Professional Golf Association of Malaysia — came under the latter and, since office bearers were elected, they tended to be subject to detrimental politicking and infighting.

PGM, on the other hand, had no such problem as it was being run on the lines of a corporate body with a board of directors, paid staff and it was performance-based like any other business.

Jimmy Masrin of Indonesia, the Asian Tour chairman, had adopted the PGM style set-up for the Indonesian Golf Tour (IGT) he heads. More recently, the Philippines had followed suit in forming the Philippine Golf Tour.

“Because we are now of the same species, they want partnership with us,” added Ahmad Sarji. As a result, both PGM and IGT had started a Ryder Cup-style annual matchplay series that began in 2016 and played alternately in the two countries. Malaysia won the first, Indonesia the second and Malaysia the third.

Just the week before, he had received a letter from the Philippines suggesting a similar contest between the two countries. But since the suggestion had come “a little late in the day”, he had declined. Next year, if there was a repeat offer, he would consider it “on the merits of the case”.

PGM’s reputation had been enhanced when it hosted the first three biennial EurAsia Cup matchplay contests between players of the Asian and European Tours (Ryder Cup-style with 12 players on each side, and fought over three days based on four-ball, foursomes and singles matches).

PGM’s standing had been earned with the help of sustained sponsorship. In times of national financial difficulties, it remains to be seen if the government would be able to provide assistance, as it did in the past.

Similarly, when it came to the corporate sector, his hope is that any cut in funding would be minimal. More so because of the looming 2020 Tokyo Olympics that is big on the PGM agenda.

“Who knows, our players may be able to spring a surprise or two.” He remembered the time he was in London in 2012 as chef de mission of the Malaysian contingent as he was watching the swimmers in action.

Other Malaysian officials with him opted to go watch Usain Bolt, the sprinter next door. Lo and behold, Pandelela Rinong rose to the occasion to win Malaysia a bronze medal with her last dive. He was witness to that historic moment.

As PGM chairman, he had sent a congratulatory note to the new Minister of Youth and Sports, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman on his appointment. At that point in time, he was still chairman of the Sports Advisory Committee.

The minister before him had made a commitment to provide assistance for golf. A response is awaited.

If money was forthcoming from the corporate sector for more ADT events with their world- ranking points, well and good. If not, and it became necessary to scale down, so be it. Prudence had to be the operative word, “a cardinal rule which ensures we don’t go wrong”.

As for commercialisaton of the PGM Tour, there are ongoing discussions with a company, while a concept is being worked out.