10 Years: Q&A with Amandeep Johl

Fri 05 Jul 2013

10 Years: Q&A with Amandeep Johl

  • SHARE
Kuala Lumpur, July 5: Amandeep Johl was one of India’s flagbearers on the Asian Tour before scaling down on his playing career. The 45-year-old, who accumulated 17 top-10s from nearly 300 appearances in Asia, was also one of the guiding hands in the formation of the Asian Tour back in 2004 when the players took charge of their destiny and charted their own course. As the Asian Tour continues its celebration of 10 seasons of excellence in 2013, we talk to Johl on his playing career, the establishment of the Asian Tour and what the future holds for him.
You’ve cut back your playing career but are still very much involved with the game, in particular running the SAIL-SBI Open on the Asian Tour. Where are you now with your career?
I’ve been organsing the SAIL-SBI Open which is six years in running. It gives you a lot of satisfaction. Even though I don’t play an active role in the running of the Asian Tour, this is my little way of giving back to the Tour and making sure the Tour continues to go on. Any sponsors that I meet anywhere in the world, I’ll say “let’s support the Asian Tour”. It’s our Tour, it’s my Tour and I feel it will continue to grow from strength to strength.
Are you contented with what you achieved in your playing career?
If you’re a player, you’re never satisfied. If you’re no. 1 for 100 weeks, you’ll always say “I wish I was no. 1 for 150 weeks.” Obviously I’m not happy that I didn’t get the elusive win. The closest I came was in Korea (2003 Maekyung Open) when luck played a big part as my ball hit the TV camera on the last hole and I lost by one shot with a closing bogey. I got close a lot of times. On the whole, I’m still quite happy with my career. I could have gone much better but I’m not counting myself out. I am still fit enough and playing pretty well.  I think I’m ready to come back and make a charge again. You never know where destiny takes you.
Amandeep Johl. Amandeep Johl.
Can you tell us what were amongst the key highlights of your career?
Obviously, all the top-10 finishes and the low course records, those 63s and 62s in Sanya and Macau. Those were the highlights. For a good 10 years, my ex-wife caddied for me on Tour and that was a plus. I also made great friends. But the top highlight must be the 2005 Dynasty Cup, playing for Asia as one amongst the 12 and beating Japan. You could say that’s one of the top highlights.
What does the future hold for you?
I’m a guy who has followed his passion all his life. Since giving up playing full-time, I’ve been trying out a few things but I’m not satisfied in doing business … the passion is not there. I tried tournament management and it doesn’t bring the passion out. The passion is playing. It still is. The second day of the SAIL-SBI Open (in February), I finished with an eagle. I hit a driver down 18, a three iron to 15 feet and canned the putt. Boy, that was a boost. That feeling, I can’t get from making lots of money from event management or business. Also, I’m teaching youngsters at the Delhi Golf Club which is a good thing. However, playing is the number one passion for Amandeep Johl. I may make a come back on Tour. Never count me out. I’m fitter, smarter and more level headed now. Also, I’m swinging it good.
You were one of the players who helped set up the Asian Tour as a players’ organisation back in 2004. That must have been an exciting time for the players.
When we started as a players’ organisation, we didn’t know which way we were going to go or if we were taking the right step or not. We were a group of players trying to do something for the game and we did not know if the sponsors would come on board with us if we organised ourselves as a Tour. We were worried about where the money would come from or even things like who would draw up the constitution of the Tour. But it all fell into place when we met in Singapore and formed the Asian Tour which we structured after the European Tour and Japan Golf Tour and ultimately controlled our own commercial rights. We felt that if we owned our own Tour, we could sell the product ourselves as we, the players, are the product.
What were the positives that came out when the Asian Tour was finally launched?
We wanted to be able to decide on what our rights were. That was the main aim. In some countries, they couldn’t hold tournaments as there weren’t enough money. But we wanted to go there and make our presence felt as the players belonged to all Asian countries. So if example Cambodia could organise only US$500,000, it wasn’t viable for a commercial body to go in there but as a players’ body, we said “let’s cut cost and just do a tournament.” It was surprisingly easier than what we thought. Sponsors just fell in line. When we announced we were forming a new Tour, the tournaments that were on the previous tour shifted with us. The sponsors realised that they had to follow the players.
Amandeep Johl. Amandeep Johl.
Did the players get outside help to help with the change?
We had help from the European Tour. Ken Schofield (the former European Tour Executive Director) gave us a lot of help. We also got help from Louis Martin. I can’t forget that he worked for four or five months without being paid a penny. We as players didn’t have the commercial know how and Louis did a lot of the work. It just evolved and before we realised, it started looking like a real Tour. We went from US$12 million to US$27 million in the first three years. I don’t think any tour went this strong in such a short time when I was on the Board of Directors.
It must have been a really satisfying time in your career then?
The satisfaction to see what you set out to do, it’s like a baby, seeing the baby grow. From walking a few steps and finally running, the Asian Tour has really come of age. It was supposed to be where youngsters can show their talents but for a lot of Asian players, it is their main bread and butter. We’ve produced a lot of champions who have gone on to play on the European Tour and PGA Tour. We’ve got winners on all the tours and this is something that the Asian Tour can be very proud of.
What was the general feeling amongst the players when the Asian Tour got off the ground as a players’ organisation?
For the players of Asia, there was a new sense of belonging. Since I was a child, I don’t think we had a sense of belonging that this was our tour. Finally, we had a tour which is the players’ tour. They can decide which way it is going to go and they can decide what the outcome of the tour is going to be. The decisions are taken, the players’ board, everything is done by the players. It’s come a long way and there is a lot of satisfaction.
What do you think the future holds for the Asian Tour?
For the next 10 to 15 years, I see it as being quite bright. Kyi Hla Han (the Tour’s Executive Chairman) has shown great leadership for this Tour. He’s done a lot and shown a lot of direction and we’re doing the right things as far as TV and other key areas are concerned. The players that are coming out from different countries are getting good exposure. Guys from Bangladesh, they couldn’t get a chance to play previously. They are winners on the Tour now. It’s unbelievable. Siddikur (of Bangladesh) came up to me years ago and said “Sir, if you didn’t help me get a country spot previously, I wouldn’t be where I am today.” It’s a gratification and you don’t realise what you’ve done. You think back and say we’ve done pretty well. It’s really satisfying.