These are really exciting times for Asian golf: Taimur Hassan

May 21, 2023

The Chairman of the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC) believes that young Pakistani golfers have the potential to shine internationally but won’t be able to do that unless they get much-needed support

These are really exciting times for Asian golf: Taimur Hassan

Over the years, Pakistan has produced numerous sports stars of international calibre. From the great Hashim Khan to Jahangir Khan and Jansher Khan in squash, Hassan Sardar, Shehbaz Ahmed and Sohail Abbas in hockey to Fazal Mehmood, Javed Miandad and Babar Azam in cricket, it’s a very long list.

But the same is not the case when it comes to sports administrators, at least not at the world level.

Once upon a time there was Air Marshal Nur Khan, who played an important role in the progress of sports like hockey and squash at the international level. Then there was Professor Anwar Chowdhry, an engineer who headed the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) as its President for quite a long time.

Currently, the one Pakistani at the helm of an important international sports body is Taimur Hassan Amin. He is serving as the Chairman of the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC), a fast-growing body that has 44 member nations.

But Taimur has a lot more in common with the likes of Jahangir Khan and Shehbaz Ahmed than he has with the likes of Nur Khan and Professor Chowdhry as his bigger claim to fame are his sporting achievements.

Taimur is by far the most celebrated amateur golfer Pakistan has ever produced having won the prestigious National Amateur on numerous occasions after his maiden win as a teenager in 1970 in Peshawar. He has won the Pakistan Open on multiple occasions. He has also won internationally as he claimed the individual honours at the 1977 Nomura Cup, the Asian Team Championship. He also won the Asia Pacific Seniors Championship in 2010 in Bangkok.

Taimur’s son Hamza Amin is also an accomplished golfer. Taimur and Hamza are the only father-and-son pair to have won the coveted National Amateur title. They are also the only father and son to have qualified to play at the same edition of the prestigious Asia Pacific Amateur Championship. The duo represented Pakistan in the event twice in Tokyo and Singapore.

In 2019, Taimur was elected as APGC chairman. Last year he was re-elected unopposed to head the organisation.

In an interview with The News on Sunday, Taimur talked about the enormous progress made by the Asia Pacific region in the field of golf and whether Pakistan can catch up with other nations of the region in the future. Following are the excerpts.

TNS: Tell us about your association with golf as an administrator?

Taimur Hassan: I had been actively playing golf since an early age. It was in 2005 that I made the switch and became the Secretary of the Pakistan Golf Federation (PGF). Because of my record as a player, I was invited to join the committee at the APGC in 2006. That’s how my association with APGC began. In those years, it wasn’t the sort of active organisation it is today. There weren’t many international events run by it. We used to have the Nomura Cup which was effectively the Asian team championship and a few other events. Later, APGC partnered with Augusta National to launch the Asia Pacific Amateur Championship. It became our flagship event. The inaugural event was held at Mission Hills in China. It catapulted the profile of APGC as more nations of the region wanted to be part of the body. The Asian Amateur turned out to be a game-changer. Its biggest attraction was that the winner got an invitation to play The Masters at Augusta. Today we have 44 nations as members. Several women’s golf organisations have also joined us.

TNS: How and when did you start playing key roles in APGC?

TH: APGC continued to grow with leaps and bounds. In 2004 a new Board was formed and Australia’s David Cherry was elected as its chairman. I served as its Secretary General. Later, Japan’s K Maratsu was elected as chairman and he invited me to be the Vice Chairman. Later, in 2019 I was elected as Chairman.

TNS: How has been your experience as head of such an important golf organisation?

TH: I feel honoured to serve as APGC Chairman. It’s a body that has grown immensely over the years and has blossomed into an influential and really active organisation. Today APGC hosts a series of high-profile international events including AAC in partnership with Augusta National, Nomura Cup, Women’s Asia Pacific Amateur in collaboration with R&A, Queen Sirikit Cup, Asia Pacific Juniors, Asia Pacific Seniors and several other events.

Soon after my first stint began in 2019, Covid struck. There wasn’t any activity for two years but since 2021 we have been holding a lot of events.

These are really exciting times for Asian golf: Taimur Hassan

TNS: What sort of future do you see for golf in the Asia Pacific region?

TH: I believe these are very exciting times for international golf and even more so for our region. Asia Pacific is the most important region in the world. It has a population of four billion people and is the most diversified region. We have over six million who play golf in this region. There are more than 5000 golf courses. To be elected and then re-elected as chairman of the body that runs golf in this region is a great honour for me. Our biggest aim is to give our kids a maximum number of opportunities. The introduction of events like the AAC which is considered to be a Major in amateur golf alongside The (British) Amateur and US Amateur championships has really helped our players. Today we have Major champions like Hideki Matsuyama and Cameron Smith. In women’s golf we have role models like Yuka Saso from the Philippines who won the US Women’s Open in 2021 and Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul. They have inspired an array of young players who have the potential to be future champions.

TNS: Golf is slowly but surely picking up in Pakistan. How can our players benefit from the progress being made in the region?

TH: Over the years APGC has made all out efforts to make sure that the young golfers of our region get the best possible opportunities. Today, they have those opportunities. They can play in the best events against the best fields and on the best courses in the world. Pakistani golfers, too, have the same opportunities. What the Pakistan Golf Federation (PGF) needs to do is make sure that our golfers, especially the younger lot, are able to avail these opportunities. The youngsters should get more support. There is no dearth of golfing talent in this country. What our young players need is foreign coaches. We (APGC) can help identify the best coaches. The players need better facilities. Today we have two courses that can meet international standards — Raya in Lahore and Rumanza in Multan. We need more such facilities because unless we have them it’s almost impossible for our players to compete against the best in the world. We have to replicate the sort of fast greens we have at international events. We can’t expect our players to do wonders after practicing on surfaces totally different from what they would have to deal with in international events.

TNS: How do you see the future of Pakistan golf?

TH: Things are certainly improving. Despite all odds we have produced some very good players even though very few play golf in Pakistan. We have accomplished players like Shabbir Iqbal. Then there is Ahmed Baig, who is a fabulous player and can go on to become a torch-bearer of Pakistan golf internationally. Recently, Munazza Shaheen became the first Pakistani lady to pass a series of tests to become a qualified golf referee. She will be officiating at the Asia Pacific Amateur in Melbourne later this year. It’s a great honour for Pakistan and I must congratulate Munazza and PGF for this unique feat. Times are changing and we will have to change with them. Pakistan golf needs to catch up with the rest of the world. It has the potential to do it. What we need is the will that is needed to make sure that our young players get there.

Khalid Hussain is Editor Sports of The News

These are really exciting times for Asian golf: Taimur Hassan