Nicklaus sees bright future for golf in Brunei
legend Jack Nicklaus, delighted at being a part of history at this
week's inaugural Brunei Open, has urged authorities to maintain
the drive to develop the game in the sultanate.
Brunei's first ever professional event will make its debut on the
burgeoning Asian Tour at the spectacular Empire Hotel and Country
Club, a par-71 course located on the fringe of the South China Sea
and designed by 18-time Major winner Nicklaus.
The US$300,000 Championship starts on Thursday with Thailand's Thaworn
Wiratchant, the Asian Tour Order of Merit leader, and four other
players in the current top-10, Scott Barr, Terry Pilkadaris, Marcus
Both and Simon Yates, leading the chase for glory.
While the US$300,000 Brunei Open is expected to trigger greater
interest in golf within Brunei, which presently has some 3,000 social
golfers but yet to produce a first Tour professional player, Nicklaus
said concerted efforts would ensure the growth of golf in this nation.
"We are very proud to be hosting Brunei's first professional
golf tournament," said Nicklaus in a statement to the Asian
Tour. "We have been very fortunate over the years to have close
to 80 of our golf courses host a combined total of 500 professional
tournaments worldwide, and we look at that as a positive reflection
on the quality of golf courses we try to design."
Asked to offer his advice on how Brunei can accelerate the development
of the game, Nicklaus, nicknamed the Golden Bear, said: "In
a word, exposure. First, by staging a professional golf tournament
at Empire Hotel and Country Club, you are getting people to the
tournament, getting people organised for the sake of golf, and most
important, you are getting people interested in the game by giving
them the opportunity to see some of the best players in the world
compete in their country.
"Then, it is important that golf officials follow up on that
exposure. They should enjoy the initial interest and exposure, but
don't let it end there. Follow up on this opportunity by creating
programmes that encourage people to learn about the game and then
create programmes that keep them in the game."
Asia's leading professionals have also predicted a bright future
in Brunei. India's Amandeep Johl, a member of the victorious Asian
team at the Visa Dynasty Cup in April, said today: "Empire
is one of the best courses we've played in Asia. I see no reason
why this tournament cannot become one of the premier events in Asia.
We've made a good start by coming to Brunei and I'm sure this can
become one of the best events in Asia and match the other big national
Opens in the region."
Australian Barr, currently fourth on the Order of Merit, said the
par-71 Empire course will separate the men from the boys. "The
course is a very fair test of golf. The fairways are generous but
Jack Nicklaus has put a premium on good iron play. The greens are
superb and I think the scores will be low. The best golfer will
win this week and luck won't come into it on this course. You have
to hit good shots over here.
"It's very exciting for the players. The whole setting here
is mind-blowing. It's a fantastic course and it's a great resort.
Brunei has given the Asian Tour an opportunity to show what we can
do," said Barr, who has two runner-up finishes this season.
Brunei Tourism Director Sheikh Jamaluddin Sheikh Mohamed said the
government agency would back the event for at least the next five
years. "Brunei Tourism initiated the Brunei Open and we are
very excited. This will be an annual event for at least the next
five years and even longer. However, I would like to urge the private
sector to support this event and make this bigger.
"This is history for us, the first time that we're having a
professional tournament in Brunei. I'm sure the Asian Tour players
will be eager to go all out to win and play their way into the history
books by being the first champion of the Brunei Open."
June 21, 2005