(Reuters) - An Asian golf turf war seems to have fizzled out nearly six years after the launch of a second professional tour that threatened the very existence of the region’s more established circuit.
The OneAsia Tour was initiated in 2009 with the stated goal of quickly growing to 35 tournaments, each with a minimum purse of $1 million.
The circuit, backed by sports marketing agency World Sports Group, was perceived by the Asian Tour as a direct threat, so much so that chairman Kyi Hla Han said he was “appalled” by what he considered to be an invasion of his tour’s territory.
OneAsia, however, never really bloomed, unable to get near to its stated goal of 35 events and staged just seven tournaments in Asia this year.
These days, Han does not consider OneAsia a threat, though he acknowledges that the past few years had not been ideal for his tour or golf in the region.
“What they (OneAsia) predicted hasn’t happened, so I don’t see it as much of a threat but it’s not healthy for the game of golf,” he told Reuters, his previously fiery rhetoric giving way to more measured language.
“About six-to-eight of our tournaments we felt were taken away by force. There’s still a little bit of confusion. It’s not healthy but we’re going to just concentrate on our own business and I feel we’ve got our own structure right.”
Professional golf in Asia remains fragmented. While the Asian Tour seems to have weathered the storm and rebounded reasonably well, many of its events offer relatively small $300,000 purses, a pittance by international standards.
It had 16 stand-alone tournaments this year, plus another half-dozen that were co-sanctioned with either the European, PGA or Japan Tours.
However, China was a notable gap from the schedule. The Asian Tour hopes to re-establish a presence there soon, though the PGA Tour now has a developmental tour there and has firmly planted its flag there.
Even without China, the Asian Tour has survived a battle that could have destroyed it.
Founding OneAsia chief executive Ben Sellenger, who left the organization in 2011 and now works in his native Australia for sponsorship agency Bastion EBA, acknowledges that the circuit fell short of its ambitions.
“Expectations and projections for OneAsia were based on the region cooperating and speaking with one voice in the best interests of the game,” Sellenger told Reuters in an email.
“This principal was somehow lost along the way, with the creation of the platform instead used by a variety of parties as a divisive force to further personal, political and commercial agendas.”
Editing by John O'Brien