Golf: Asia to top world in 15 years, says WSG boss

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The Independent Online

Runaway growth could make Asia the world's richest golf zone in just 15 years, outstripping Europe and the United States in a seismic shift for the sport, a senior marketing official said.

"Scary" rises in recreational players and fans will inspire sponsors to pour increasing sums into Asian events, World Sport Group (WSG) chief executive Andrew Georgiou said, describing the region's supremacy as inevitable.

"It's going to be huge. I believe in 10 years we're going to have 20-plus five to six million dollar tournaments in this market," Georgiou told AFP in an interview on Friday.

"It's just a function of time and the growth in those markets. It will make it bigger than the European Tour. I think it's probably another five to 10 years after that before it becomes bigger than the US PGA Tour.

"There's no doubt in my mind that Asian golf will be bigger, more valuable, more affluent, than the US PGA Tour over time. It's just a question of when."

Asia has risen from golfing afterthought to burgeoning power in the past decade, and now threatens to compete with the traditional bases of Europe and the United States, where the sport was born and developed.

Georgiou, whose company is Asia's leading sports marketing group, said the region's accelerating wealth made it a magnet for sponsors, who will feed off improving performances from local players.

Y.E. Yang became Asia's first Major winner in 2009, leading a group of players who have come to prominence in recent years. Yang, K.J. Choi and Kim Kyung-Tae are all ranked among the world's top 50 players.

"Our raw materials are the athletes and the quality of our athletes in Asia is improving," Georgiou said in his office in central Singapore.

"We've now got Major winners, we've now got recognisable names. Ten years ago, we probably had Jumbo Ozaki and then there was kind of no one.

"Now you've got a bunch of household names that people know. Jeev Milkha Singh, K.J. Choi, Y.E. Yang, Ryo Ishikawa, Zhang Lianwei, Liang Wenchong. You've got players who people now know from Asia."

Georgiou doubted that golf's growth in Asia, which according to WSG now has an estimated 25 million players and 4,600 courses, would be affected by the ongoing turf war between the Asian Tour and OneAsia, one of WSG's partners.

The bigger, and longer-running Asian Tour accuses OneAsia of muscling in on its territory after the new circuit launched a series of million-dollar events in 2009.

"I think they're two different products," Georgiou said. "OneAsia is a product which is designed to fill a gap in the market.

"What OneAsia is trying to create is a series of events that is comparable in quality and size to the European PGA Tour and the US PGA Tour."

He added that a tie-up between OneAsia and the European Tour - which now has a partnership with the Asian Tour - could "work very well".

"If they're open to that and OneAsia are open to that, I think that could work well," he said.

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