It is with a somewhat heavy heart that I write my final Chairman’s message. It is an opportunity to reflect upon the past four years which I will do but that is somewhat self-serving as in the last few months there have been significant developments – mainly related to women’s golf, which I think are more important to highlight.
I have been waiting for what seems many months to announce that the Women’s Amateur – Asia Pacific (WAAP) has been secured to start at Sentosa, Singapore, in February 2018. This has not been an easy process and I want to thank our partners in this event, The R&A, for their hard work in securing the necessary sponsorship to ensure that the event over the next three years will be a success.
Women’s golf in the APGC is stronger than anywhere else in the world and I can see this event rivalling the AAC in attracting attention, with the winner getting starts in major Professional events. My opinion of our women’s golf has only been strengthened by what I have just witnessed at the Mitsubishi Corporation APGC Junior Championships in Hong Kong. There are girls aged 12 and 13 with plus handicaps that can hit the ball amazing distances – more of that later.
At our AGM in Wellington, New Zealand, on Wednesday, October 25, I will be welcoming members of the Iraqi Golf Federation (IGF) to their first meeting as a member of APGC. They will have Amer Radee, a wonderful golfer competing at the AAC, having lived in exile in Jordan due to the political unrest in his own country.
I wish him all the best as well as the delegation from IGF and having the country of Iraq join our Confederation has been one of the highlights of my time as Chairman. I trust that all of our members will make them feel welcome and their presence in Wellington will no doubt give them a feeling of normality in what must have been a very difficult period of political uncertainty.
Hye-Jin Choi from South Korea has had an exceptional time and recently entered the Professional ranks. However while an amateur she finished in the top ten at the Australian Women’s Open and incredibly came second in the USA Women’s Open as well as winning countless Amateur events including the Australian Women’s Amateur. Her World Golf Ranking is now 22, which even by the high standards in Korean golf is exceptional – we all wish her well. I predict that she will do for APGC women’s golf, what Hideki Matsuyama has done for APGC men’s golf – and that is a big call.
Thitikul from Thailand at the tender age of 14, as an amateur, won a professional tournament in Thailand – making her the youngest ever to do so – bypassing Lydia Ko from New Zealand. All in APGC congratulate her and look forward to seeing her compete for us in the near future.
As indicated above, I have recently attended the Mitsubishi Corporation APGC Junior Championships held at Hong Kong Golf Club at Fanling. This event, which was the brainchild of my presumed replacement Mr Kei Muratsu from Japan, is going from strength to strength, not only in the number of countries participating (20), but also in the quality of play, etiquette shown by the players and most importantly the enjoyment shown by the players in the format of the mixed event. I predicted that the format would not work but fortunately I was not listened to – I now think that the Professional tours will adopt a mixed event in the near future.
Our event now attracts WAGR points with the female individual winner invited to play in the Korean Women’s Open while the male winner is invited to play in the Mitsubishi Asia Pacific Diamond Cup. I have been asleep at the wheel as it is clear that the individual winners should be invited to play in the AAC and WAAP respectively – that is something the new Board can look at. The scoring at this year’s event was outstanding on a difficult golf course – such is the quality of the players, and I am very grateful to the Mitsubishi Corporation for their continued sponsorship of one of our flagship events. Without that sponsorship, many countries would not have been able to compete.
I had been concerned that with some of our top women players entering the Professional ranks, that our Patsy Hankin Trophy team would suffer. However I have seen such quality replacements for them and with the emergence of great players from China, that our team in Qatar will represent us well. The European Golf Association (EGA) sent two teams to Hong Kong to further cement our close relationship with them. They performed very well in what must have been challenging conditions particularly for the player and his family from Norway. The male winner from Macau had an amazing week – beating the more fancied players from Japan, Australia and Korea, but also having seen his golf course decimated by a freak typhoon just before the event in which his team uniforms were all washed away by the ensuing flood.
This is a busy time for the APGC with the forthcoming Mitsubishi Asia Pacific Diamond Cup towards the end of September in the Narita region of Japan, followed by the APGC Senior Championship at Royal Adelaide Golf Club in Australia and the next week sees the AAC at Royal Wellington in NZ and some two weeks later, the Nomura Cup in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Fortunately, Nick Shan is the Tournament Director for all but the AAC, but a great deal of work is done by KJ Lee, our General Secretary. It has been my pleasure to work with KJ over the past four years, without which the APGC would not be in the position it currently finds itself. I hope for APGC’s sake that KJ will continue in his current role for at least the next four years.
The APGC now has a list of international events that is almost complete. The new Board, headed presumably by Kei Muratsu, will be left with the responsibility to ensure that they are run professionally and to continue to attract sponsorship to ease the burden of the costs associated with attending events at such distances. During my time as Chairman, I have insisted that the Board is transparent and our decisions are none other than for the benefit of golf in our region. I have spent considerable time working at our Constitution but is still has some way to go – no doubt my replacement from GolfAustralia (John Hopkins) will have this as one of his first tasks.
Kei Muratsu has been a wonderful Chairman of our Championship Committee and an excellent Vice Chairman – I wish him well. Philip Hassall from NZ has been a huge support in his role of Treasurer and thanks to him, our financial base has never been stronger. The three female Board members have been inspirational and I repeat that the affiliation with women was the best thing ever to happen to the APGC – RaeVadee Suwon and I can look back at this development with some pride.
I note that Mr Billy Payne, Chairman Augusta National Golf Club, has announced his retirement and his successor will be Mr Fred Ridley. Billy Payne has been an outstanding leader in many ways but particularly from our view point, in his determination to see the AAC flourish. The staff which he leads have been outstanding and have done everything possible together with huge assistance from The R&A, to get the AAC to the position it currently occupies. Billy has many accomplishments on which to reflect favourably (including the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games) but the AAC must be high on his list.
Lastly, after 22 years as Australia’s representative to the APGC, it is time to pass the baton back to John Hopkins. I have had undying support from GolfAustralia for which I am extremely grateful and which has made my job much easier. I wish APGC well and I will watch APGC continue to flourish from the sidelines. I have met literally hundreds of outstanding people from our huge region – many of whom remain friends. Long last the multicultural APGC which it has been my pleasure and privilege to be a part of.