Staying on their feet


Like all else in this pandemic, golf has had a tough time but the folks remain resilient.

IN the wake of the positive projections highlighted by some of the key players in the golf retail sector last weekend, TeeUp spoke to a handful of the game’s leaders drawn from Malaysia and Singapore about last season and their outlook for 2021.

Needless to say, they too remain upbeat about what might be in store this year, notwithstanding the challenges that we face today.

Following are excerpts from the interviews conducted by TeeUp:



Tun Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid Chairman, PGM Tour

COVID-19 impacted everyone and every industry in 2020. The golf industry was adversely impacted since it depends on the mobility of people and the deployment of relevant goods and services.

The lockdown last year was necessary to help contain the spread of the coronavirus which limited the number of golf activities that could be carried out. These activities include recreational golf, club championships and professional golf tournaments organised by the European Tour, Asian Tour or by Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM).

In late 2019 the PGM Tour planned 17 tournaments for men professionals in preparation for our Malaysian players to compete on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) to collect world ranking points to qualify for the 2020 Olympics.

However, with the lockdown starting in March 2020 the calendar was revised with one PGM Tour tournament only in September 2020. We had the PGM Qualifying School held from Sept 8-10 at Impian Golf & Country Club and the PGM MNRB Championship held on Sept 23-26 at the Glenmarie Golf & Country Club. Four other events were cancelled due to the conditional movement control order(CMCO) declared for several states.

The PGM Tour calendar in 2021 will have 10 tournaments for our professional men players and 10 tournaments for our professional ladies. We are also planning to introduce a new golf tournament to prepare our promising young amateur players to compete in the professional ranks in the future – to be called the PGM Under-21 Pre-Professional Championship and run alongside our pro men’s championships.

We are working closely with the Malaysian Golf Association (MGA) to stage the PGM Under-21 Pre-Professional Championship.

There will be five such events and we have requested the national association to submit 10 names for both boys and girls to compete in the PGM Under-21 Pre-Professional Championship.

Regardless of the situation, professional golf can only flourish in Malaysia with sustained sponsorship and placing the golf professional Tour along commercial lines, with a proper communications network and enlightened patronage.



Eric Linge

Chief Executive, Asian Golf Industry FederationFOR most of us within the golf industry, 2020 was a year to take stock and to reappraise our business models and operating procedures. Certainly, that was the case with the Asian Golf Industry Federation (AGIF) and many of our more than 100 members, companies and clubs.

Despite the hardships, we saw increases in the amount of rounds being played and the number of new members joining clubs – affirmation that golf is a healthy family activity played outdoors and with natural social distancing.

At the AGIF, as well as relaunching our website (www.agif.asia) and introducing a Covid-19 Resource section and Job Listing function, we focused on improving our relevancy via our LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube channels.

To further serve the industry, we produced more than 30 podcasts and webinars, featuring many figures from different areas of the industry.

Notwithstanding the challenges that lie before us, the AGIF remains fully committed to supporting sustainability in all aspects of golf, as well as growing the game initiatives and high-quality education, specifically related to green-keepers and club managers. All of this, and more, is outlined in a Strategic Plan 2020-21 which we issued in the final quarter of 2020.

Given our partnerships with organisations such as the R&A and the Club Management Association of America and a strong membership base that represents the key players in the golf industry across Asia, there is certainly cause for guarded optimism in the New Year.

It is our intention to find new ways to be relevant and active in both existing and new markets.

As with many industries, golf is awaiting the time when we can all start travelling again, which will mean the resumption of tournament golf and also expect a strong bounce back from the golf tourism industry.

We hope this will be sooner rather than later.



Admiral (R) Tan Sri Mohd Anwar Mohd Nor

President, Malaysian Golf AssociationIN some ways 2020 was a contradictory year not only for the association, but for many people as well.

After a hiatus of four years we finally managed to stage the Malaysian Open (March 5-8) at the Kota Permai Golf & Country Club. Bandar Malaysia came on board as the title sponsor and the tournament was then called Bandar Malaysia Open 2020.

It offered a prize purse of US$1mil and was co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour. It was one of the proudest moments of the MGA, that we finally managed to stage the national professional open again. It was a long and arduous task, but we managed to overcome the doubts and obstacles to organise it.

Before the Malaysian Open, the association organised a highly successful MGA Charity Golf where we raised RM1mil. Proceeds from the charity drive were channelled equally to Yayasan Al-Sultan Abdullah (YASA) and the National Junior Development Programme.

Right after the Malaysian Open, the Covid-19 pandemic hit and the Government took immediate action by imposing the movement control order (MCO). All businesses had to close including the golf clubs. We were fortunate in that golf was allowed to resume soon after, albeit with new norms. The sheer size of a golf course enabled the sport to enforce social distancing and as the borders were still closed, our golfers fully utilised the facilities.

The local golf businesses enjoyed a boom thereafter and we are really happy for the local golf industry despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

We would like to urge all club operators and golfers to continue being vigilant in adhering to the SOPs when play resumes after the latest CMCO.

Back to 2020 and another of our proud moments was when Gavin Green and Kelly Tan qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, which have been rescheduled to this year.

We are also proud of our national players, in particular Alyaa Abdulghanny, Natasha Andrea Oon and Ervin Chang who received exemptions to play in the US Amateur Open 2020. Alya went on to advance to the semi-finals but lost to the eventual champion, Rose Zhang. Alyaa, Natasha and Ashley Lau also won the silver medal in the 2019 SEA Games.

We hope 2021 will bring us the much-needed relief from the pandemic and the vaccine will be rolled out soon so life can get back to normal.



Tham Onn Chuan Managing Director, ATG Watch

DURING the initial movement control order (MCO), when golf was not allowed to be played, most golf clubs and their related services struggled. Things improve thereafter, and despite the renewed lockdown enforced this week, we are positive about what 2021 might be like, as long as we follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs) and stay safe. I think 2021 could be another good year for all of us.

Despite the challenges that may lay ahead, ATG Watch will continue to support the golf industry of Malaysia, as we have always supported it – to help grow both the golfing and luxury watch industries.

The authorities, whenever possible, should work towards creating a more conducive environment to attract foreign golfers to come to Malaysia and patronise our golf clubs, thus bringing in tourist dollars as golfers are high-end tourists with high disposable incomes.

In order to promote this sport more, public driving ranges should be set up.

Golf is a contactless sport, thus SOPs are more easily implemented, and we hope the government will allow for golf courses to reopen up for business as soon as possible.

The closing down of our borders and placing restrictions on travel have unexpectedly brought a windfall for some in the golf industry.

Food and beverage businesses at golf clubs too enjoyed a boom as dining in a club environment proved safer to some degree, due to lesser crowding.



Tang Meng Loon Club Operations and Townships Director, Gamuda Land

THE year 2020 will be remembered the world over as one that was truly challenging. The golf industry was not spared and now with renewed movement control orders (MCO) in place we are still feeling the effects being carried through into 2021.

The industry suffered a massive loss of revenue – not just golf clubs, but also event organisers, retailers, tour operators, suppliers and other stakeholders. The industry as a whole came to a jarring halt during the initial MCO before slowly picking up once the CMCO and RMCO were enforced.

When open for play (at Kota Permai Golf & Country Club in Selangor and Horizon Hills in Johor), there are still challenges as the reintroduction of the CMCO during this very concerning third wave brought about changes in the standard operating procedures (SOPs) which we took in our stride.

We strictly comply with all SOPs and guidelines set down by the authorities and even went a step further by conducting daily sanitisation and disinfection exercises, plus a fortnightly mass Covid-19 screening for our workforce.

While we take our safety protocols seriously as a breach could result in dire consequences, players should do the same and work with us in helping us ensure their safety and well-being whilst on our premises.

We hope that 2021 will be a better year. It hasn’t started off great, but hopefully things will pick up slowly and surely. Covid-19 is here to stay for a while as vaccines are only at the early stages of a roll-out.

We will just have to continue practising vigilance and ensure that this new norm is one we have grasped well so we can help the industry push through these trying times.

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