Jakarta, 25 January 2016 - With the inaugural Maybank Championship Malaysia to commence next month, the organizers of the event expect regional players to make the most of the opportunity to challenge the world.
The field will feature 156 players and five of the slots are to be allocated for top professional players from Southeast Asia.
“We will reserve places for top ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] players,” Maybank Chairman Tan Sri Dato’ Megat Zaharuddin Megat Mohd Nor told The Jakarta Post in an interview recently.
“So for those ASEAN players who did not automatically qualify through the Order of Merit, then we go to the national associations and ask them for the top-ranked players,” he said. “And the Indonesian association has recommended George Gandranata.”
With no Indonesian players being in the top 67 of the Asian Order of Merit, George will be the only contender from the country at the US$3 million tournament, which will be staged at the Royal Selangor Golf Club from Feb. 18 to 21.
The 30-year-old player, who turned professional in 2012, is fired up to prove he is a worthy wildcard recipient.
“I feel honored to be invited to play in the Maybank Championship Malaysia. I think it’s a really great opportunity for me. Hopefully I can play well and make the event’s promoters feel that they made the right choice,” he said.
The invitation was officially extended by Tan Sri to Indonesia’s Jimmy Masrin, the chairman of the Asian Tour board, at Pondok Indah Golf course on Thursday.
Louis Oosthuizen, currently number 18 on the world rankings, and Martin Kaymer (30) are the highest ranked players in the tournament, and Tan Sri said he was expecting another player ranked higher than 18 to join.
“We have announced top two players [Oosthuizen and Kaymer] and we will be announcing three more in the coming days,” Tan Sri said.
The wildcard reservation for regional players is viewed as a reward to countries that are committed to actively promoting professional golf.
“Obviously, we are focusing on the countries that are active in promoting professional golf,” Tan Sri said.
He noted the significance of the tournament in offering leverage toward qualifying for this year’s Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where golf will be making its debut at the world’s largest multi-sport event.
“The key goal will be to provide as many playing opportunities for top Malaysian and ASEAN players. Why do we feel it’s important, because through the involvement of European Tour and Asian Tour, there’s a lot of world ranking points at stake. And this is, especially for this year, very important because with adequate ranking points you can qualify for the Olympics in Rio. In this sense, this is tremendous opportunity for a large number of ASEAN players to go after world ranking points,” he said.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will take a pool of 60 players, each in the men’s and women’s division, based on the Olympic Golf Rankings. Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand are currently the only players from the region on the qualification list.
With a view to pushing the region to catch up with the rest of the world, especially Europe and America, in the development of golf, Tan Sri pointed out the need for national associations to be more active in exposing golf to youth.
“What has to be done will be to improve the organizations and infrastructure to enable easy access for players to compete and to ensure the flow of young players to senior ranks,” he said.
“Giving more opportunities for young players to play outside, especially in Europe, will help raise the standard of the game for the pros in the future,” he added.
Meanwhile, Jimmy, while acknowledging underperformance compared to other countries in the region, said that Indonesia had stepped up efforts in promoting the game to its youth in the last three years.
“The more you get exposure for the young, the more they are interested in golf,” he said. “Indonesia in the last three years has developed what we call a local platform, which is the Indonesian Golf Tour.”
The next level for tournaments, according to Jimmy, includes the Asian Development Tour (ADT), the Asian Tour and the co-sanctioned European-Asian Tour events.
The ADT series this year encompasses 19 tournaments, two of which will be hosted in Indonesia in June and August.
Tan Sri said he was keen to extend assistance to help raise Indonesian golf.
“We have provided a slot for Indonesia’s top golfer to come and play in the Maybank Championship. And we’ll continue to discuss with the association here what other roles we can play. A few years ago we sponsored an ADT event,” he said.