Golf season in Asia is underway, but expectations for the men in the region are not nearly as high as they are for the women.
Nonetheless, Chawalit Plaphol of Thailand won the Myanmar Open over the weekend to get 2013 off to a good start for Asia’s male golfers.
The main story, however, was the emergence of rookie Mithun Perera, a young Sri Lankan who pushed Plaphol until the end and suggested that he has a bright future in the game.
"All you need is one good week to turn your life around. I feel my time is coming soon. I try my best in every tournament and I think the win is not far away," Mithun said, according to an Asian Tour press release. "I'm sure my father and my country are proud of me. This week, I flew the Sri Lankan flag high. There's no disappointment for me."
Still, Asian men lag way behind Asian women in the game. On the LPGA circuit, Yani Tseng of Taiwan is ranked number one in the world with a host of South Koreans just behind her.
One such South Korean star is Park Inbee, who won in Thailand just last week.
By contrast, a look at the top 50 golfers in the world for the men reveals a less impressive showing for Asia.. Only Japan’s Hiroyuki Fujita makes the cut, at number 43. Further, only one Asian man has won a major: Y.E. Yang of South Korea took the 2009 PGA Championship. Yang’s win, however, has not yet signaled a major shift in men’s professional golf.
“Golf is in its infancy in the Asia-Pacific region. It takes time, and it takes time to develop personalities in particular,” Asian Tour CEO Mike Kerr told AFP. “All sport is personality-driven but I think the foundations are there, the fundamentals are there, the growth is going to be there.”
To be fair, there is something that Asia’s women golfers do not have to deal with. For men, Asian golf is split into two competing tours, namely, the Asian Tour and OneAsia, a rival tournament that started in 2009. There is little love lost between the competing tours, which make it difficult for players, some of whom have been fined after appearing in rival tours.
This came to a head in 2012 when the Asian Tour fined a group of players for appearing in an event held by OneAsia in 2010 and barred them from future Asian Tour events. The players took the issue to court and were successful.
"It has been a long wait, but it feels very good. I really feel that justice has been done in this case," Australian golfer Matthew Griffin said after the verdict. "Golf in the region could be very strong, but I felt the restrictions were stopping the sport from developing and also stopping me from developing as a player."
Indeed, this state of affairs certainly does not create a healthy environment in Asia for men golfers to flourish.
HSBC head of sponsorship Giles Morgan told Reuters, "We absolutely support that we would want to see a clear hierarchy for golf in Asia, there is so much potential and growth here, but I don't want to be involved in it, no."