Els Blog: Asia Rising

Fri 04 Nov 2016

Els Blog: Asia Rising

  • SHARE

By Ernie Els, Asian Tour International Ambassador and Honorary Member


I continue to be proud of my role as an international ambassador and honorary member of the Asian Tour and it’s one of my greatest pleasures, as a player and golf course designer, to be able to travel extensively across this beautiful continent, enjoying its diverse cultures.


Just in the last month we’ve been to Beijing for a sponsors’ engagement with Pacific Links International, followed by a weekend in Singapore, and then a fourth appearance in the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur.


It was a really enjoyable couple of weeks. In particular, it’s impressive to see what CIMB, in partnership with the Asian Tour and the PGA TOUR, has done there and it’s good that the company has extended its title sponsorship through to 2020. That tournament is going to go from strength to strength.


Ernie Els of South Africa Ernie Els of South Africa


That seems to me indicative of the unstoppable force of golf in Asia right now. For one thing, the standard of golf on the Asian Tour is getting better all the time. Every time I play with some of the younger players I am impressed not only by their talent but also by their temperament.


In Kuala Lumpur I was paired with Miguel Tabuena of the Philippines; I really enjoyed his company and talking to him about his hopes and dreams. I’m sure he’ll do well. I also played with Hideki Matsuyama, someone I’m quite familiar with, and it reminded what a wonderful ball-striker and all-round great player he is.


There’s no doubt in my mind he has the game to win a major and I told him that as we chatted on the way round. Hideki then winning the WGC - HSBC Champions by seven shots, the first Asian winner of a WGC event, will have given him a massive boost of confidence and that’s sometimes the catalyst for pushing on and winning a major.


Watching and obviously having played that tournament, it’s amazing to think that the WGC - HSBC Champions began only as recently as 2005. The ambition at the time was to create a world-class international tournament in what was then seen as one of golf’s emerging markets.


"The Asian Tour has to be congratulated on the manner in which it is providing additional playing opportunities for its members and also giving more players the opportunity to play and compete alongside the world’s best." - Ernie Els


Look at it now. This year it had the strongest field ever assembled in Asia, with 40 of the world’s top-50 players, all four of 2016’s major winners and 19 of the 24 players that competed in the Ryder Cup. It’s a spectacular success and there’s not a hint of exaggeration in describing it as ‘Asia’s major’.


Miguel Tabuena of Philippines Miguel Tabuena of Philippines


In actual fact, the quality of tournaments right across Asia says all you need to know about the strength of the Asian Tour. You can see it also in the way the world’s major tours want to be involved there. Only this month there was an announcement from the PGA TOUR’s incoming Commissioner Jay Monahan launching the new CJ Cup in South Korea.


It will form part of a new three-tournament ‘Asian Swing’ next October - alongside the existing CIMB Classic and HSBC Champions - and will see 78 players competing for a massive $9.25 million prize fund. To put that into context, only the four majors, THE PLAYERS Championship and the four WGC's boast bigger purses. Already there are a lot of very fine golfers from South Korea competing on the PGA and LPGA tours and the CJ Cup is surely going to help inspire a new generation to follow in their footsteps.


Of course, it was only 12 months ago that the European Tour and Asian Tour announced a significant new commercial partnership, one which aligns many of the two organisations’ shared professional and commercial interests.


If you look at the European Tour’s 2017 schedule you’ll see there are three co-sanctioned tournaments between now and April: the UBS Hong Kong Open, Maybank Championship Malaysia and Hero Indian Open. The Asian Tour has to be congratulated on the manner in which it is providing additional playing opportunities for its members and also giving more players the opportunity to play and compete alongside the world’s best. The game of golf, and I mean that in a global sense, is the winner in all of this.


The Els Club Desaru Coast. The Els Club Desaru Coast.


Malaysia is one part of this beautiful continent that I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know and love, not only from playing tournaments there but also through our work at Ernie Els Design. It’s a truly wonderful golfing destination and one that is going to be on the radar for a whole world of travelling golfers in years to come. For us, it’s wonderful to be able to play a part in the growth of the game in this magical country.


In particular, we feel honoured to be working with our clients at Themed Attractions Resorts & Hotels with The Els Club projects across two distinct and stunning resorts; one in the north on the island of Langkawi at Teluk Datai and the second in the south at Desaru Coast. That too is where we’ll soon be opening our fifth Big Easy Winebar & Grill, joining an existing portfolio of such properties in Stellenbosch, Durban, Miami and Dubai.


Obviously it’s exciting and gratifying for the whole team that our Els Clubs have been given some really strong worldwide recognition in recent years, not least with The Els Club Teluk Datai entering the prestigious Golf Digest Top-100 Courses in the World list at number 83 in only its first year. One day I feel confident we’ll be hosting an Asian Tour event at this beautiful location; the golf course is certainly good enough.


Talking of tournament golf brings me quite neatly back to the day job! One of my competitive goals for the 2017 season is to play my way on to the Presidents Cup team for what would be a record ninth appearance. Incidentally, there were five Asian-born players on the 2015 side, which backs up much of what I’ve been saying in this piece.


"The quality of tournaments right across Asia says all you need to know about the strength of the Asian Tour. You can see it also in the way the world’s major tours want to be involved there." - Ernie Els


But, as much I’d love to tee it up again for the Internationals, I can’t hide the fact that it was a huge honour to be chosen recently as a captain’s assistant. To be with [captain] Nick Price is going to be wonderful. We go back a long time. He was my mentor on the Tour and I played a lot of practice rounds with him, got a lot of advice from Nick.


We’ve become great friends since then, and I can't wait to help him. It’s going to be an unreal Presidents Cup. To be at Liberty National looking at the financial district and the rest of Manhattan, it’s going to be incredible. The energy that comes out of that place is just crazy; I couldn’t see anything else beating that venue. Whether I’m there as a player or as one of the captain’s assistants, it’s going to be a terrific week.


Ends