NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The Asian Tour will add a third new tournament to next year’s calendar and hopes to offer more than $50 million in prize money by 2017, chief executive Mike Kerr said.
The $3 million tournament in Thailand, co-sanctioned by the European Tour and slated for February, was further proof of the Tour’s robust health, Kerr told Reuters.
“In the last couple of months we have added four new events,” Kerr said in a telephone interview.
“We are projecting robust growth in 2015 and carry on in 2016. Next year, we’re going to have around 30 events, which is a significant growth from this year.
“The total prize money this year is $40 million, next year it would be $45 million, which is more than 10 percent growth. We hope to break the $50 million mark in 2017.”
The other events to be added to next year’s calendar are the $1.3 million AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, tri-sanctioned by the Asian, European and South African ‘Sunshine’ tours, and the Vascory Classic in Malaysia.
The Asian Tour also recently announced the new Dubai Open would be added at the end of this year’s schedule.
Kerr was particularly happy with the tour’s foray into the Middle East with the Dubai Open.
“It was important for us,” he said. “Historically we’ve played in the Middle East but it was too long we did not play there. We will add more tournaments in the Middle East in future.”
Kerr also envisaged a season-ending tournament on the lines of the U.S. Tour’s FedEx Cup or its European version ‘Race to Dubai’, though on a smaller scale.
He pointed to the success of Noh Seung-yul and Hideki Matsuyama on the PGA Tour, David Lipsky’s victory in the co-sanctioned Omega European Masters and the rise of Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Anirban Lahiri of India as reasons to be bullish about Asian golf.
“They are representing Asia very well. I think the players (in Asia) are of higher standards that we have ever seen,” he said.
“Aphibarnrat, Lahiri, Lipsky — they are doing well and all of them are in their 20s. The strength and depth of the field is very good and the golfers are performing really well.”
Golf’s return to the Olympics at the 2016 Rio Games will also do a world of good for the game in the continent, Kerr added.
“Golf in Olympics is a major boost for professional golf in Asia. The Olympic body in each Asian nations is taking it seriously.
“Golf is getting more attention and more funding at the professional, amateur and junior levels and it bodes well.”
Editing by Ian Ransom