KARACHI: Asia’s leading golf stars and possibly a European Tour winner are likely to feature in an Asian Tour tournament to be held in Karachi this summer.
The US$300,000 CNS Open Golf Championship to be played at the prestigious Karachi Golf Club in July will mark the return of big-time international golf to Pakistan for the first time in 11 years.
The tournament was confirmed after top Asian Tour officials gave the go-ahead for it following a recent security and course inspection. A field of more than 80 foreigners which is expected to include Asian Tour and even European Tour winners will compete in the CNS Open that has been penciled in for July 26-29 at the KGC.
“It’s a huge development not just for KGC but for Pakistan golf,” Bilal Rafi Muneer, the KGC Captain, told ‘The News’.“The Asian Tour is coming back to Pakistan and we are all excited about it,” added Bilal, who is one of architects behind Asian Tour’s return to the country.
Backed by the Pakistan Navy and its top officials including the Chief of Naval Staff as well as Commander Karachi, Bilal initiated the move to put Pakistan back on the international golfing map.
It all began after Comkar Admiral Athar Mukhtar, who is also KGC’s President, showed a keen interest in the idea of bringing the Asian Tour back to Pakistan. It was back in 2006 and 2007 when the KGC hosted back-to-back Asian Tour events but since then there has been no international event here mainly because of security reasons.
The idea was to make this year’s edition of the CNS Open — Pakistan’s richest golf tournament — an Asian Tour tournament.But it was easier said than done.
There were too many hurdles. The first one was to convince the Asian Tour to put Pakistan back on its map. Then there was the Rs70-million-question as that’s the sort of money which is required to stage an Asian Tour event.
“But the good thing was that Navy was completely behind this idea. The support went right up till the Chief of Naval Staff and once that was guaranteed things began to fall into place,” Bilal said.
Buoyed up by Navy’s backing, Bilal discussed the matter with Taimur Hassan, the former Pakistan Golf Federation (PGF) who is currently the Vice Chairman of Asia Pacific Golf Confederation. Taimur, easily the most accomplished amateur golf of Pakistan, enjoys an excellent rapport in international golf circles. Once he came on board, door began to open.
“Though I am not associated with PGF anymore I’m always available for Pakistan,” Taimur told ‘The News’. “Bilal is a dear friend but I’m in it mainly because I want to give back to Pakistan golf,” he added.
Taimur then met top Asian Tour officials in Singapore and urged them to include Pakistan on their programme. The campaign received a boost when the country successfully hosted an Asian Development Tour tournament in Lahore last November.
Recently, a three-member Asian Tour team visited Karachi for an inspection and found everything was in order for a full-fledged tournament at the picturesque KGC.“They were satisfied with our plan and were impressed with the (KGC) course,” said Bilal, himself an avid golfer.
Taimur, too, hailed the KGC course. “It looks tremendous and I’m sure we will have a highly successful tournament in July,” he said.Over the years a lack of ample finances and, perhaps more importantly, widespread security fears have dogged efforts to hold an Asian Tour event in the country.
Pakistan first became part of the Asian scene in 1989 when the Pakistan Open became part of the old Asian circuit. That event was won by Filipino star Frankie Minoza. Pakistan have produced only one Asian Tour winner in the past following Taimur Hussain’s success at the 1998 Myanmar Open.
The Pakistan Open was also a part of the Asian Tour in 2006 and 2007. The tournament was held at the Karachi Golf Club on both occasions and attracted several leading pros from the region as a part of a three-year deal. However, security concerns forced the cancellation of the 2008 edition.
England’s Chris Rodgers won the inaugural event ahead of India’s Jeev Milkha Singh and Amandeep Johl. In 2007 Malaysia’s Airil Rizman claimed his maiden Asian Tour title with a two stroke triumph over Scott Hend of Australia.