Reality check for 2019 PGM calendar

Given current economic conditions, the total package for 2019 is 26 events offering RM3.9m in prize money

By SHIV DAS

It’s a manner of speaking. There’s many a slip between the cup and the lip, meaning…things not happening as they are expected to.

But, it’s not been so for the Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) Tour, ever since it was up and running from late 2010. Minor hiccups there have been, a change or two in venue, perhaps, due to unforeseen circumstances, but the events have never failed.

It was with this as backdrop that the 2019 calendar of the Tour was unveiled by Tun Dr Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid, the initiator and force behind the Tour from inception, at the PGM office in Plaza Damansara, Kuala Lumpur, on Dec 21.

He had everything to be thankful for. Since the Tour started effectively in 2011, it hadn’t suffered any hitches. Golf courses were made readily available, and sponsorship money and government aid all had come together with “great synchronisation”, as he put it.

PGM, as a company constituted under the Companies Act, had held a board meeting and approved the 2019 calendar, as it had done in previous years.

If unerring predictability of the past is anything to go by, the new calendar will not disappoint. Drawing it up required painstaking effort by GM Nik Mustapha Nik Mohamed, who has to book the venues in advance, have public holidays factored in, ensure availability of players and see to all the nitty gritty (appointment of tournament directors and referees, etc) to be taken care of.

Getting clubs to give up five days of club time takes negotiation, but all said and done, the clubs had always been “very reasonable” in the fees charged and he was grateful for that. He praised Nik Mustapha and PGM’s skeletal staff for a job well done.

Prudence was the underlying theme in running the PGM Tour, reflected in the operating costs making up hardly 15% of total costs.

But, given current economic conditions, belt tightening had become necessary. The total package for 2019 is 26 events offering RM3.9 million in prize money. (Last year, it was 31 tournaments and RM5.22 million. Boom year was 2015 with 33 tournaments and RM6.64 million.).

The breakdown of the 2019 calendar shows six segments: Nine Asian Development Tour (ADT) events accounting for RM2.03 million, six Closed events (RM1.28 million), four PGM Qualifying events (RM60,000), 10 Ladies events (RM350,000), one IGT (Indonesian Golf Tour)-PGM Ryder Cup-style event between players of the Malaysian and Indonesian Tours to be hosted by Indonesia this time around, and one PGM Seniors event (RM185,000).

“The smaller purse this year is due to reduced funding by the sponsors and withdrawal of a few,” explained Ahmad Sarji, without a hint of concern, as he could look to the good times he was confident would return before long.

From a time when there was zero, there are now 14 Malaysian professionals with Official World Golf Ranking, thanks in no small part to the PGM-ADT events that carry such points for it.

They are Gavin Kyle Green ranked 214, Ben Leong (407), Shahriffuddin Ariffin (554), Nicholas Fung (600), Wilson Choo Zhe Ming (986), Danny Chia (1,046), R Nachimuthu (1,081), Amir Nazrin Jailani (1,119), Mohd Rizal Amin (1,315), Kemarol Baharin (1,336), Arie Irawan Ahmad Fauzi (1,347), Ervin Chang (Am) (1,515), Sukree Othman (1,552), Airil Rizman Zahari (1,630) and Mohammad Wafiyuddin Abdul Manaf (2,003).

Green is the sole Malaysian playing on the European Tour, having won the Asian Tour Order of Merit in 2017. As of Dec 21, he was ranked 84th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, out of the 110 who get to keep their Tour card for the upcoming season.

Green on present ranking is in the qualification zone for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

The PGM Tour cardholders currently playing on the Asian Tour are: Leong, ranked 37, Fung (54), Chia (99), Amir Nazrin (126), Sukree (195), Shahriffuddin (196), Khor Kheng Hwai (207), Mohammad Wafiyuddin (208), Arie Irawan (212) and Kim Leun Kwang (219).

Based on their showing on the home circuit, PGM has recommended 10 rising stars for the 2019 final stage qualifying school. They are Shahriffuddin, Sukree, Amir Nazrin, Kim, Nachimuthu, Choo, Kenneth De Silva, Kemarol Baharin, S Sivachandhran and Mohammad Wafiyuddin.

There are three reserves: Arie Irawan, Rizal Amin and Irfan Yusoff.

Thanks to close ties with the Asian Tour, six Malaysians have country exemption status for the Asian circuit in 2019. They are Shahriffuddin, Sukree, Amir Nazrin, Kim, Nachimuthu and Choo.

There are three reserves: De Silva, Kemarol Baharin and Sivachandhran.

Consider all of the above as key performance indicators (KPIs) of PGM, suggested Ahmad Sarji.

Based on home earnings, plus half of earnings internationally, Shahriffuddin has RM176,446 to his name after the conclusion of the PGM GlobalOne Players’ Championship, and has emerged tops again this year, second year running.

But the year really belongs to Green, playing 33 events internationally (no events locally) and totting up RM2,547,000 in prize money (after the BNI Indonesian Masters), which clearly highlights his looming potential in the international arena.

Leong is next, with 18 international events and five local, for earnings of RM598,000 and Fung, RM378,000 from 20 international and seven local events.

The Ladies Tour, played alongside the men’s, also came under the spotlight. There are now 12 players, growing from the original three. The validity of their Tour cards is now two years instead of one.

In the media conference that followed, Ahmad Sarji said he had met with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who had assured him of continued government support, not least with tax exemption for prize and sponsorship money.

As for any new KPI, he said it will be centred on getting funding for the Tokyo Olympics to mirror the achievement of the 2016 Rio Games, when the country managed to send a full quota of four golfers (two men, two ladies). UMW Holdings Bhd had provided RM1.7 million towards a comprehensive preparatory programme.

He hoped aspiring players would aim for qualification by coming within the Top 300 in the world, but preparing them for that goal would require funding.

He was also aiming for a legacy event in partnership with the Asian Tour to mark Malaysia’s hosting of the EurAsia Cup three times (2014, 2016 and 2018).

Ken Kudo, Asian Tour associate director of corporate partnership and client services, said half of last year’s ADT events were held in Malaysia, which was “more than we could ask for”. The coming season, with nine such events, still represents “a very healthy year for us”.