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SHAH ALAM, Dec 16 — The Malaysian Golf Association (MGA) today announced the appointment of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah as its royal patron.
MGA president Tan Sri Mohd Anwar Mohd Nor said having the King as its royal patron was a precedent since its inception in 1929 and an honour.
“MGA is indeed blessed with the patronage and honoured that His Majesty shares MGA’s aspirations and objectives to further develop and promote the golf sport in the country,” he told a press conference at the Kota Permai Golf and Country Club here.
Mohd Anwar said having Sultan Abdullah who is a golf enthusiast will help reinforce MGA’s long-term objectives to develop golf in Malaysia.
Sultan Abdullah who is also Pahang Ruler said golf has the potential to be an economic contributor for Malaysia.
“I am pleased to note that the MGA has been tirelessly and continuously working to develop golf in the country, not only as a sport but also as an industry that can contribute to the country’s economy.
“I believe there is a lot more that can be done to further develop the game in the country, such as enhancing junior development programme to unearth more talents that will represent the country in the future. I am happy to work with the MGA and contribute towards achieving these objectives,” he said in a statement.
The King noted the recent success of the Malaysian ladies’ golf team in nabbing silver at the SEA Games in the Philippines, saying it proved that Malaysian golf players are just as good as regional top players.
“I am confident that with our concerted efforts, we can make Malaysia a regional golf powerhouse,” he added.
Mohd Anwar also announced the return of the Malaysian Open golf championship after four years.
He said the MGA flagship event will be held from March 5 to 8 next year at the Kota Permai Golf and Country Club, which hosted the last Malaysian Open in 2008.
“The Malaysian Open will be an Asian Tour, sanctioned event in partnership with the Japan Tour,” he said.
He added that the prize money is US$1 million (RM4.14 million) and is expected to increase over the next four years.
He said there will be some changes in the revived Malaysian Open.
Among them, Malaysian golf players will have 40 slots compared to 22 previously.
Mohd Anwar said 30 slots are reserved for eligible Malaysian professionals and 10 slots for Malaysian amateurs comprising MGA national players and top Malaysian juniors.
MGA, as event owners have not been able to secure a new title owners as of 2018, since it parted ways with Maybank Berhad, a long-time partner in June 2015.
The banking giant went on its own to partner previous Malaysian Open promoter GlobalOne to host Maybank Championship in 2016 and has been running for a fourth year straight with its last tournament held earlier this year.
The Star previously reported that MGA hit a stone wall in securing a principal sponsor in earlier attempts to revive the championship.
Mohd Anwar said the championship may be collectively sponsored this time around even though MGA engaged several promoters, including Winning Matters.
“Hopefully with Winning Matters we should be winning. And with the King as our royal patron, it has attracted some interested parties to want to be with us.
“It may not be a single title sponsor, but shared between several sponsors. We are awaiting the final conclusion of one possible title sponsor, if it’s a go, we will only announce this in January 2020,” said Mohd Anwar.
When asked on the list of players who will be part of the Malaysian Open, Mohd Anwar said there is still time to finalise who will play in the golf championship.
“We still have three months to go. We are dependent on the Asian Tour top players. In the past most top Asian players will come because of the stature of the Malaysian Open.”
Winning Matters CEO Arep Kulal said this is the first time so many slots are allocated for Malaysians.
“This is our national open. My suggestion to give 40 slots for Malaysian players, I have received many critical condemnations.
“But this is our Open, they (Malaysians) have to play. We are also bringing back Malaysian legends like S Murthy, Rashid Ismail and Danny Chia. They are our legends, they have to play.
“We are Malaysians, and this our Malaysian Open. Let’s make this happen together,” said Arep.
Commissioner and CEO of the Asian Tour, Cho Minn Thant who was also present at the same news conference said a bulk of the players will be from the Asian Tour, with 20 likely from the Japan Tour.
He also anticipated the participation of foreign players from the Japan Tour which starts in April 2020.
“We are expecting a strong line-up from the Asian Tour and with the Japan Tour which starts in April, the Malaysian Open will allow the Japanese players to gear-up for the start of their season.
“Also, with the Asian Tour event, instead of an European co-sanctioned event, it gives us the flexibility to give more spots to Malaysian professionals and amateurs, and top junior players.
“While there is a concern with world golf rankings, this event also prepares players for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics event,” said Cho.