Principal sponsor doing a crucial job in taking golf to new heights in Asean region
IN a wide-ranging interview with Tee-Up Maybank Group President and Chief Executive Officer Datuk Abdul Farid Alias shared his thoughts on what the Maybank Championship means to the bank and the sport in general. Following are excerpts of the interview:
Q: This is the third Maybank Championship and with the first two considered successes, what is it that Maybank derives most from the event?
A: Maybank has played a key role in elevating golf to a whole new level in Malaysia since we started our involvement with the sport in 2006, and then in 2016 when we branched out with our own Championship.
Since 2006, we have seen heightened interest in golf both among the spectators in the country as well as players from abroad who could earn world ranking points from their participation in Malaysia. This has also helped in making Malaysia better known as a world-class golfing destination.
Apart from that, we believe that we have been able to develop and grow the pool of Asean and local golfers, and help them compete at a global level through the opportunities we have given them to participate in our event.
This is already evident with Malaysia’s very own Gavin Green, who was recently crowned Asian Tour Order of Merit winner and now ranked 169 in the World Ranking. Gavin has been Maybank’s ambassador since 2015.
In addition, our event has enabled us to build closer ties with our partners, as well as given us significant brand exposure in the international arena.
Q: Again, the Maybank Championship will feature a very strong field – with this in mind what can the fans expect this year?
A: Fans can definitely anticipate a thrilling competition this year, with so many talented golfers from this region and international ones who are confirmed for our event.
We have current World No. 9 Henrik Stenson confirmed – as you know, he is the only professional golfer to have won both the FedEx Cup and the Race to Dubai in the same year.
Besides him, we have other personalities such as Bernd Wiesberger of Austria, Yusaku Miyazato, Ryo Ishikawa and Yuta Ikeda of Japan and Asean favourite Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand.
Fabrizio Zanotti of Paraguay, the 2017 champion, 2016 champion Marcus Fraser of Australia, as well as former world number one Lee Westwood and Matteo Manassero will also be there to bid for the trophy.
Other champions including Wade Ormsby, Lucas Bjerregaard, Romain Wattel, and Paul Dunne have also confirmed their participation together with 2018 Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjørn. Joining them will be Andrew “Beef” Johnston and South Africans Haydn Porteous and Dylan Frittelli, Korean stars Wang Jeunghun and Soomin Lee, Frenchman Alexander Levy, Northern Irishman Darren Clarke, and 2016 Masters Champion Danny Willett.
In addition, there will be our top-14 professional golfers including Gavin Green and Danny Chia.
With such a stellar field, I am sure that our guests and viewers will not be disappointed with the action this year.
Q: There will again be a strong Asean presence at Saujana – perhaps you could share more on this?
A: Yes, apart from those who have qualified based on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, we have a special Asean category established since last year, which is the first initiative of its kind on an International Tours’ circuit and aims to give players who would otherwise not qualify for this tournament, the opportunity to play alongside the world’s best.
The five players in the Asean category are selected based on a number of criteria including their Asian Tour Order of Merit, Asian Development Tour Order of Merit, World Ranking and local tour Order of Merit in their respective countries (where available).
We started this category because as an organisation operating throughout Asean, we believe we have a role in helping the region progress – not only through our support of businesses but also the communities in this region, including in sports.
This is part of our role in Asean community building, which is aligned to our “humanising” mission.
This year, the five players we have selected are Justin Quiban of Philippines, Michael Tran of Vietnam, Naing Naing Lin of Myanmar, Quincy Quek of Singapore and Rory Hie of Indonesia – these are young and upcoming players who we hope will gain from the exposure they will receive at the Maybank Championship and go on to bigger things in the sport.
Q: Besides golf on the course, what can the fans look forward to this week?
A: Our Maybank Championship this year will feature many activities for visitors to immerse themselves in, including some which will showcase Asean elements on a global stage.
Guests can visit the Village to check out exclusive offerings by our partners and sponsors and also enjoy a respite from the heat at the chill-out areas while staying close to the action.
They can watch traditional dances and drum performances at the Village which will be open to the public.
This is part of Maybank Kim Eng’s sponsorship of our KataKatha initiative on culture and arts.
There will also be a food festival at the Village to add to the sensory experience through culinary arts.
This includes pop-up stores offering a variety of food and merchandise, including some stalls by our RISE participants (which are mainly physically challenged people who have undergone the RISE entrepreneurial training programme by Maybank Foundation) and products from our Women Eco Weavers programme in Asean.
Celebrity Australian chef Adrian Richardson, host of AFC’s Good Chef Bad Chef series, will be right here in Malaysia to tantalise visitors’ taste buds with his special creation sold from Aloft KL’s Food Truck parked right outside the Village.
As part of our efforts to drive cashless transactions, we will be offering payments using our newly launched Maybank QRPay at the tournament venue. Visitors can use the QRPay for purchases at the Village including at F&B outlets and they will enjoy great discounts too.
The event will also feature Yoga sessions each day as well as a “Beat the Pro” challenge on tournament day three at Hole 7.
This is the first such challenge in Asia and only the second in the world after the US. In this challenge, amateur players will go up against the pros at this hole and be given the opportunity to out-drive the pros.
These amateur players will have been selected by their participation in the “Maybank YIPS Challenge” held earlier.
On Friday we will have our “MaybankHeart, Yellow Fri-YaY” where fans can support MaybankHeart, our online crowd funding platform for NGOs and charitable bodies by wearing a splash of yellow.
All they have to do is turn up at the event with any yellow attire that day.
There will also be a MaybankHeart Silent Auction, where visitors can bid for exclusive signed merchandise by past and present players, and many more, with proceeds going to selected beneficiaries on this platform.
So whether you come to experience the game, enjoy the atmosphere or just mingle around, we will have something for everyone, just like we do when it comes to providing services across the region.
Q: Sponsors play a huge role in the development of sport in general and staging big international events like this, perhaps you could comment on the partnerships that Maybank has cultivated and enjoys today.
A: An international event such as the Maybank Championship is certainly dependent on the involvement of many parties. And since we started our sponsorship of golf over 10 years ago we have built strong ties with many partners.
These include the European and Asian Tours, our local organiser Global One and various other sponsors and golf clubs, who have worked with us to make our event a success year after year, and we are grateful to all of them.
We have also enjoyed strong support from the golfing fraternity and fans who have come in to support the players and even participate as volunteers and officials.
In addition, our tournament has been a good platform to organise various stakeholder engagement events and strengthen our relationship with clients, business partners and other parties.
Of course, there is also the partnerships we have cultivated with the professional golfers who have come back to play in our tournament and help raise its profile in the international circuit.
Q: What is the general state of Saujana’s Palm course as we enter tournament week?
A: Saujana has been the home of Championship golf in Malaysia since the 90s and is rated amongst the best championship venues in Asia. CNN rated it as one of the Top 10 most difficult courses in the world. Hence, a suitable challenge for the world’s leading golfers from the European Tour and Asian Tour.
With the recent upgrading of the course at Saujana which saw new tee boxes at Hole 14, Par 4 as well as improvements in the greens which will make the speed of greens faster, I believe the course will challenge the players even more and make our 2018 event a truly exciting one.
Q: Generally speaking, what would you consider a successful week?
A: We would consider it a successful week if our guests and visitors are able to experience at least some of the elements we have specially created for them at the Maybank Championship.
We want them to enjoy the tournament itself, which we are sure they will, given the outstanding field of players.
Apart from that we hope they get to experience the amazing atmosphere at the Village where there are numerous activities that will keep them excited throughout their visit.
Hopefully, many of them will get to meet their golfing heroes and go away inspired by our commitment in ensuring our event is truly where “The Best of Asean Meets the Best of the World”.
Of course, success would also be if our participating golfers feel that they have had a great outing at our tournament and have come away better from the competition.
Q: Is there anything else that you might want to add for particular mention?
A: Golf holds a special place in our hearts here in Maybank. We have been involved in helping to develop this sport for over 10 years now and we are proud to see how it has grown in Malaysia, with many more organisations supporting it today. We hope that golfing fans and the public will join us and experience a truly world-class event, in addition to enjoying the many other attractions at our tournament.
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