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Notes from the Asian Tour: Tribute to the Stars










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HK Golfer Issue 119

On the Cover:

Australian Sam Brazel stunned an elite field in UBS Hong Kong Open to win his biggest cheque yet. He brilliantly went head-tohead with Ryder Cup star Rafa Cabrera Bello over the weekend rounds and nailed an eight-foot birdie on the closing hole to triumph by one shot.. Photo by Daniel Wong

January 2017



34 | UBS Hong Kong Open Review

12 | Divots

An epic final round with various players coming within touching distance of winning the UBS Hong Kong Open as the European Tour brought down the curtain on 2016 in dramatic fashion. By Louie Chan

38 | UBS HKO in Pictures

A pictorial review of the 2016 UBS Hong Kong Open. By Daniel Wong

44 | Notes from the Asian Tour

A look back at how 2016 unfolded. Take time and pay tribute to the stars and heroes who produced outstanding performances in Asia. By Chuah Choo Chiang

50 | Change the Name of the Game

News and events from Hong Kong and the region. By The Editors

14 | In Focus

A pictorial review of the last 30 days from around the world. By The Editors

21 | Tee Time

At the recent opening of the Audemars Piguet exhibition in Shanghai, CEO François-Henry Bennahmias shared his views on golf, hip-hop and the future of the watch industry. By Charles McLaughlin

26 | Liquid Assets

Keith Pelley, European Tour’s chief, goes into this year with confidence and the new Rolex Series under his belt. By Mike Wilson

Highland Park’s latest creation ICE Edition is a special bottling which delves into the world of classic Norse mythology. By The Editors

56 | 12 Key Questions for 2017

74 | Crossword

Our new column Bunker Mentality looks into its crystal ball and asks a dozen intriguing questions facing the game of golf. By Mike Wilson

This issue: 2016 – That Was The Year That Was! By Dr Milton Wayne

66 | Caddying at the Island Paradise

Our Hong Kong-based teaching professional shared his experience caddying for Brandt Snedeker, who romped to an emphatic win at the Fiji International last October. By Nathan Goulding 8



The new GLC CoupĂŠ. Make the best of every terrain.

HK Golfer


Managing Editor: Louie Chan Contributing Editors: Dr Milton Wayne, Faye Glasgow, John Bruce, Nathan Goulding, Keith McLaren, Paul Jansen, Evan Rast, Mike Wilson, Robin Lynam. Art Director: Derek Hannah Photo Editor: Daniel Wong Administration Manager Cindy Kwok Publisher: Charles McLaughlin Published by:

TIMES INTERNATIONAL CREATION Times International Creation Limited 10B Lockhart Centre 301-307 Lockhart Road Hong Kong Phone: +852 3590-4153 Fax: +852 3590-4533

D E PA R T M E N T S 12 Divots 14 Global Focus 16 Asia Focus 18 Local Focus 21 Clubhouse 29 Around the HKGA 44 Notes from the Asian Tour 56 Bunker Mentality 74 Crossword

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HK GOLFER is published by Times International Creation, 10B Lockhart Centre, 301-307 Lockhart Road, Hong Kong. HK GOLFER is published monthly © 2017 by Times International Creation. Published in Hong Kong. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is strictly prohibited. PRINTED IN HONG KONG. 10




Star Players Raise HK$180,000 in Charity Shootout

Six of the star players of the 2016 UBS Hong Kong Open took time out to participate in a charity fundraising putting contest at the Central Harbourfront in an epic 18-metre putting contest. A total of HK$180,000 was raised, with Rafa Cabrera Bello receiving the accolade of MVP for his four successful putts. The money raised will be shared among the tournament’s four nominated charities: the Autism Partnership Foundation, InspiringHK Sports Foundation (IHKSF), Playright Children’s Play Association and The Hub Hong Kong.

The initiative brought to a close the tournament’s new HK18 community initiative which has taken the excitement of the UBS Hong Kong Open on an 18-day roadshow, visiting each of Hong Kong’s 18 districts. The interactive golf experience has seen some 1,350 members of the public test their skills on a purpose built course, with over 20,000 spectators enjoying the fun.

Poulter and Dou Introduce Golf to Hong Kong Youngsters

Getty Images; Daniel Wong

As part of the UBS Hong Kong Open community outreach programme, over 150 kids between the age of 8 and 11 from four schools in the New Territories were invited by the Hong Kong Golf Association to the Tuen Mun Golf Centre to participate in an introductory golf clinic led by the 2010 UBS Hong Kong Open Champion Ian Poulter, and Chinese rising star Dou Ze-cheng. Title sponsor UBS is once again making outreach the centerpiece of its sponsorship, with over 100 students from 12


three local schools to be hosted at the championship on Thursday and Friday. The schools are all affiliated with the UBS supported Hong Kong Council of Early Childhood Education Services (CECES) programme. The 2016 UBS Hong Kong Open community outreach programme aligns with its objective to grow the game of golf in the broader community with the support of the Mega Events Fund. HKGOLFER.COM


UBS Hong Kong Open 2016 Charity Cup Raises HK$3M Following the success of the inaugural UBS Hong Kong Open 2015 Charity Cup, the event returned with 188 participants, who raised a total of HK$3,000,000 for the benefit of four local charities - InspiringHK Sports Fou ndat ion, Playright Ch ild ren’s Play Association, Autism Partnership Foundation and The Hub Hong Kong. The event was held on t he championship course at the Hong Kong Golf Club, the venue for the recently completed 2016 UBS Hong Kong open won by Sam Brazel of Australia. This year’s Charity Cup attracted a number of influential participants including event patron local singer and artist Alan Tam; Ms Amy Lo, Head of UBS Wealth Management Greater China and Country Head of UBS Hong Kong – title sponsors of the UBS Hong Kong Open; Dr Caleb Chan, Founder of Friends of Asia Hong Kong; and Mr Kenneth Lam, Captain of the Hong Kong Golf Club.

Global Focus Yes, he is back Tiger Woods smiles as he walks across the 18th green during round two of the Hero World Challenge at Albany, The Bahamas. After his 16-month absence, the 40-year-old offers the golf world hope of a return to greatness. “The Big Cat� has certainly flashed the memories back to his glory days, especially armed with his old faithful putter, Scotty Cameron, with which he won 13 majors. After a trial run, he and Bridgestone made it official by announcing that Woods has entered into a multi-year agreement to endorse and play the B330-S golf ball. He also officially committed to the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club, California in mid-February, marking his return to the tournament where he made his first PGA Tour start. Tiger was also named lead designer for the restoration of a pair of historic Chicago courses. 2017 will see the full return of Tiger Woods both on and off the course. Photo by Getty Images/AFP

Asia Focus Hend Claims AT Merit Crown Scott Hend secured the prestigious Asian Tour’s Order of Merit crown at the seasonending UBS Hong Kong Open in December, becoming the first Australian to win the title and the fourth player to surpass US$1 million in earnings during a season. The 43-year-old won twice at the True Thailand Classic and Queen’s Cup, also in Thailand, and finished top-10 on three other occasions including a runner-up outing at the Omega European Masters in Switzerland during a memorable 2016 campaign. “It’s quite special. Obviously winning any Order of Merit anywhere is very special, and this will stay with me forever,” said Hend. A disappointing campaign in the World Golf Championships event in Doral at the start of the year proved to be the spark that Hend needed to get his 2016 season going as he returned to Asia the following week and won in Thailand. Photo by Daniel Wong

Local Focus Danny’s Verdict on His Exciting Final Round Danny Willett, the defending Masters champion, was among several headline names before the UBS Hong Kong Open started. However, other than Rafa Cabrera Bello, Willett was the only big name who finished inside the top 10 with a final round 5-under par 66. “We played good. Played nice and steady. Gave ourselves a few chances all day. We were a bit shocked when we came upon to 16th and saw what the scores had done. It was just a shame how it finished. It was good fun to finish the season off hitting that shot on 18th, that second shot there, and making par.” Willett hit a spectacular shot from the fairway bunker on 18th to land on the green, which was one of the best shots of the tournament all week. Check the facial expressions of Willett and also the gallery. That just tells us how good that shot was. Photo by Daniel Wong

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Away from the Fairways | TEE TIME




I’ve decided that François-Henry Bennahmias is an “anti-dementor”. Fans of the Harry Potter films will recognize the “dementor” – hideous creatures which literally suck all of the joy and warmth out of a room, then drain the passion and energy of their victims. To be an “anti-dementor”, you have to be one of those rare individuals who lifts any gathering simply by being there. Exuding bonhomie and charm, with a ready smile and booming laugh, François is in his element “working” a room. No-one ever forgets meeting the CEO of Audemars Piguet, and he energises everyone he comes into contact with – clients and staff alike. C a s e i n p o i nt : w e a r e m e e t i n g t h e morning after a large gala party in Shanghai, where guests were treated to a range of entertainments including an amazing classical dance performance and a stunning “Bjork”like set by local star Dadawa. Spectacular and, together with a superb dinner created by 3-star Michelin chef Alain Passard, sublime. Then, in a surreal moment, Bennahmias got up and somehow led the entire assembly of A-listers in a mass improvised dance routine. It was hilarious, enormous fun and lef t everyone laughing, gasping, energized and happily getting to know their neighbours at dinner... and suddenly, the evening is truly unforgettable. I’ve been invited to Shanghai to attend the launch of the latest AP horology and art project, an exhibition featuring collaborations with several top artists with the centerpiece an installation in the massive Yuz Gallery (see article in Dec HK Golfer – ed). The exhibition is outstanding, but if I’m honest the meeting with François is the main reason I’m here. Audemars Piguet not only have a truly special place in the rarefied world of haute horology, they have perhaps the finest group of ambassadors in the world of golf, and I’m keen to discuss both with the CEO - a professional golfer himself. THE PRO GOLFER CEO Charles McLaughlin: I’ve interviewed countless professional golfers, but never one who runs one of the most successful watch companies in the world! How did that come about? François-Henry Bennahmias: My parents started playing and, when I was a kid, I was 13 years old, they were dragging me along because I didn’t want to play at all. I was a rugby player, I was playing soccer, rugby, all these spor ts where you can yell and 22



everything, and it was golf where I couldn’t do anything. They really dragged me there. I didn’t want to play golf, but when I was 15 years old we were at a competition in Spain, and it was the European Junior Championship, where France won that year. I look at the tournament and I say, “One day I’m going to beat these guys.” Two years later, in a tournament in Paris, I beat the number one player from that team at that time. Then I became pro when I was 18 years old. I played on the French Tour, which was very small, and then with the European Tour but I was not a good player. I ranked 25th in France at that time. I was making less than 10k a year, okay? I was giving golf lessons, obviously, but I wanted to become the number one player in the world. I wanted to become Seve Ballesteros - at that time he was my hero - and one of my best friends told me that I would never be number one in the world and said, “Come and work with me in the fashion world,” and I moved to the fashion world. I’m still a member of the French PGA and I sometimes give lessons to people, because I’ve always been a good teacher. Not a great player, but a good teacher. AP AMBASSADORS CM: I assume that has been a factor in choosing AP ambassadors? FHB: That’s what it is, so I pick the players. I always look at what’s going on. The big, big breakthrough was when I met Chubby HKGOLFER.COM



Chandler in 2005, and we started to sign some of his players obviously, and I became very close friends with them, and slowly but surely we increased our roster of players. We have now 14 guys, who had a great year in 2016, with Danny (Willett, Masters) and Henrik (Stenson, Open) winning two majors. CM: Are you actively involved in selecting potential ambassadors? FHB: Sure, yes. I want to meet the guys and spend time with them. For example, the first time when we signed Vijay Singh, his reputation was that he doesn’t want to meet the sponsors until it’s signed. I said, “No, no, no, no. I want to meet the guy personally” and we were supposed to see each other for, it was supposed to be a very quick dinner for, like 45 minutes. We spent three hours together, and that’s when we became very close friends. Yes, I want to feel the guys. How they’re going to be able interact with our clients, what’s going to happen? We’ve had a great roster of players over the course of the years. When I think about the guys that we got and the number of victories that we’ve had on the tour, and majors, for who we are as a small company, we did good. CM: You’re making a huge investment in the players when you chose the one you’re going to back, essentially. You want them to reflect your brand, but as we’ve seen when they do something wrong it backfires to some extent. FHB: That’s a risk when you sign people, against signing events. If you sign an event you’re safe. If you sign human beings, there is always a risk. Always, and the higher you go the bigger the risk is, because of the exposure. That’s a part of the game. HIP-HOP HOROLOGY CM: You led the dancing last night! As well as golf, music is certainly a passion you’ve brought into AP, especially hip-hop. FHB: Yeah, Jay-Z, all these guys. When I became friends with Jay, and he wanted to make a watch with us. I said, “I’m going to sell that to the board.” 24


That’s going to be: sell a rapper, a hip-hop guy, to our board in Switzerland! So, I came to Switzerland with two pictures. A picture of Jay-Z with Prince Charles, taken a week before, and a picture of P.Diddy with William Lauder, when they made a deal with the fragrance. I say, “Guys, you have to understand. Hip-hop today is what jazz was in the ‘20’s. It started in the black world, and became mainstream. This is what hip hop is today. Hip hop is listened by everybody. Black, white, yellow, pink. Everybody.” “We should make this move.” I say, “I want to make a Jay-Z Limited Edition,” and they said, “Yes,” so we made a limited edition Royal Oak Offshore that was only for the US. Not for the world. We made only 100 watches, and they sold it out in [snaps fingers]... That opened so many doors for us. We got a younger audience that came to our world, because Jay-Z was mentioning Audemars Piguet in his songs. Beyonće as well, by the way. So we started to get into a completely different crowd, and a lot of athletes started to wear AP because of that, because of Jay. Before the games they were listening to JayZ’s music, and Audemars Piguet became something. Still today people talk about it. There was one Chinese client yesterday who is in the music world here. He was maybe 28, 29. I got introduced to him yesterday. He said, “You know what? I wear AP because of LeBron James and I love what you guys did with Jay-Z.” This is why I would listen to Jay-Z forever, because of when we worked together. We worked together three years. A true gentleman, and you really hope he does a lot of tours. AP FOR WOMEN CM: As well as reinventing the brand in new markets, you’ve said that the secret to longevity is to “grow slowly” and you’ve actually restricted production as others expanded rapidly. You also said that you wanted to expand the proportion of women who are buying watches. How’s that going? I think at the time it was like 75/25, male/ female? FHB: Yeah, now we’re at 70/30 and you have to understand when you say 30, that we don’t monitor women who are buying men’s watches. It could be more, because we see that more and more actually. Of seeing women buying men’s watches, but overall it’s getting there. CONTINUED ON PAGE 77... HKGOLFER.COM




ccording to Norse creation mythology, the ice realm, Niflheim, is the home place of darkness, cold, ice and frost. The first Ice Giant, Ymir, was born at the beginning of time when the edge of the realm melted from the heat of the neighbouring fire realm, Muspelheim, and he is the first creature mentioned in the legend. As Ymir slept, he gave birth to the Jotun family – a race of powerful Ice Giants standing at over 20 feet high and known as the Gods of Creation. When they shook, fought or sneezed, it caused earthquakes! Highland Park’s latest creation ICE Edition is a special bottling which delves into the world of classic Norse mythology. This stunning expression celebrates the Viking roots of the brand’s Orkney Islands home, where the Norse influence and culture were woven for hundreds of years before Highland Park single malt whisky was even created. Jason Craig, Brand Director of Highland Park commented: “This 17-year-old single malt has a classic Highland Park flavour – dynamic, soft spicy notes complement and intertwine with creamy vanilla hues, providing a balanced and long finish. A truly harmonious whisky to savour. “Naturally vivid and radiant in colour with a 53.9% ABV, this special edition is limited to only 30,000 bottles globally. In blue tinted bespoke glass reflecting dazzling and glittering ice, the bottle shape has been designed to evoke the distinctive sharpness and coolness of the mythical and magical Ice Realm. The bottle is encased in a stunning mountain shaped wooden cradle with accompanying wooden stopper. “The intricate circle design on the label itself represents the circle of life – the creation of the world protected by a dragon; a mythical creature often central in classic Norse mythology. A booklet accompanying this new variant recounts the story of the realm of the Ice Giants and their wonderfully colourful battle against the Gods to rule the world!” Highland Park ICE Edition will be followed by FIRE Edition in later this year and follows on from the brand’s recent Valhalla Collection which championed the stories of four legendary Gods: Thor, Loki, Freya and Odin, who were to be found in Asgard. Having recently granted the highest award of excellence in single malt scotch category at Ultimate Spirits Challenge with a score of 99 out of 100, the Highland Park ICE Edition is now available in Hong Kong at a recommended retail price of HK$2,590 per bottle.



TASTING NOTES: COLOUR - Naturally radiant and vivid in colour; glacial, mirror-like brightness NOSE - Vivid aromas of cool, fresh pineapple and ripe mango sorbet come to life in this celebration of glacial character. Silvery shards of smoke give way to the frosty kick of root ginger. PALATE - Like the Ice Giants themselves, the palate is powerful yet mellifluous. In true Highland Park style, the combination of a silvery, misty peat smoke is inter-twined with pearlescent vanilla seeds and overtones of molten orris root. FINISH - Beautifully balanced, the creamy, rich, oily finish snowballs into long lingering woodiness and dry, feverish spices, providing a scintillating and harmonious whisky to savour. HKGOLFER.COM

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Hong Kong Golf Association Welcomes New CEO


Before joining the Hong Kong Golf Association, for three years Mr Lai has been the General Secretary of the Hong Kong Amateur Hockey Club, the largest ice hockey league operator in Hong Kong. He initiated a 3-year development program for over 200 talented young players with a view to them becoming potential national players in the future. The program, Generation Next, attracts HK$4.7M funding from the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust. We are excited to welcome him to the HKGA as our new CEO. A sentiment Mr. Lai shares, “As a keen amateur golfer myself, it is an honour to be part of the HKGA professional team. I have to thank my wife who bought me my first set of clubs. Whenever I golfed in exotic places like Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, the Middle East, Nepal and Sri Lanka, I never dreamed that golf would one day become my career. “ I am extremely fort unate to have t he support of an excellent Executive Committee and a team of highly motivated and professional staff. I hope to continue and build upon all the great work done by the HKGA up to now. 2016 is an exciting year for golf, with it returning to the Olympics, and it is even more exciting to have a local-bred player from Hong Kong competing in it. Yet this is only the beginning. "I would like to thank our current sponsors who have been supporting our initiatives and sharing our beliefs. We at the HKGA will continue to do our utmost to serve the game, its players and all who follow it here," says Mr Lai, who starts his new position as HKGA CEO on 12 December 2016. HK GOLFER・JAN 2017


The Hong Kong Golf Association announces the appointment of its new Chief Executive Officer, Danny Lai. Mr Lai, who possesses degrees in Economics and Laws, is well known in the local sporting community. He began his career in sport in 1989 with the then Jubilee Sports Centre, which was later renamed as the Hong Kong Sports Institute. During his 11 years at the HKSI he headed its commercial arm. At the time of his departure in 2000, he was the Commercial Operations Manager of the elite training centre and was responsible for generating over HK$18M income a year for the athletes. Danny Lai then joined the Hong Kong Cricket Association as its first ever Chinese General Manager to head Operations. He was with the HKCA for 10 years altogether and was involved in a l l t he internat iona l ly popular Hong Kong I nternat iona l Cricket Si xes events during his t ime. He accumulated extensive experience in large event management and sports development. Alongside the Asian Cricket Council and the International Cricket Council, Mr Lai has also been one of the major figures in bringing cricket into China in the last decade. During his period in off ice, the HKCA successfully obtained funding from the Mega Event Fund, M Mark, the Sir David Trench Fund, the Asian Cricket Council and the International Cricket Council to facilitate its various events and development programs. When he stepped down in 2012, he was elected lifetime Vice President of the HKCA to honour his contributions to cricket in Hong Kong, a position he holds to this day.



Player Funnel Jonathan Wallett joined the HKGA mid 2016 as its Golf Development Director to oversee and deliver its Player Development Program. In this 3-part series, Jon will write about what makes a good program and more importantly, what the HKGA’s strategy is for the future of HK golf.

Tiffany Chan, the first Hong Kong Golf Olympian

Hong Kong Golf Association/ Daniel Wong

Tiffany Chan’s success in becoming a Golf Olympian, and the first local winner of the HK Ladies Open at the HKGC in June, has elevated HK golf to a new high. Everyone who has been involved in HK golf over the last decade should take pride in her achievements and she is a pioneer for HK golf - not only though her talent and expertise on the course but also through her off-course demeanor. She has won the hearts and minds of the HK golfing community. I’m sure Tiffany has further ambitions and last summer will just be a platform for further success over the next seasons. But what about the next Miss Chan (or Master Chan!)? Who is following in her footsteps and what strategy has the GA embarking upon to ensure this is not just a lone, isolated success? D av id Hu i , C h a i r me n of t h e Ju n ior I nt e r n at ion a l C om mit tee says, “ We bel ieve t he key to sustained a nd continued success is to build from the ground up. HSBC has partnered with us to create the HSBC Schools Program. This is a wonderful entry system into the game for many local Hong Kong children who would have not otherwise had the chance to taste golf first hand. From this we are continually look to build s seamless pathway for players getting their first h’cap, and then through the Squad Games, Coaching Sessions and Junior Tour to then be able to develop their golfing prowess and subsequently reduce their h’cap over subsequent seasons so that some of these Juniors elevate 30


themselves to our Elite Squad. We are very focused on then assisting the players in our Elite Squad gain entry to College and University Golf Programs overseas.” The HKGA’s strategy is to continue to build a defined and robust Player Funnel. We have created t he ‘ HKGA Scorecard’ which helps us track and measure periodically (every 3 months) the number of players we have at each stage of the funnel. The next stage of the strategy is twofold – firstly we want to increase opportunities and the player offering at each stage of the funnel, and then secondly to improve the quality of the GA offering. For instance, one of the new GA initiatives to increase opportunities has been to start a weekly driving range class so school children who have completed the 2 level Golf for Schools Program can migrate to real golf more easily. Another initiative we are planning to roll out in the next few months is an individual lesson program for a number of the players in the Elite Squad. To date GA coaching has primarily been group sessions so this will then allow each player to have his own personal technical coach and develop a long term technical development program. We have introduced a Biomechanics Program for National Team Players – one of the top Biomechanists in the world will visit periodically to assist us in giving the HK Players the best possible technical advice on their swings. To i mp r ove t h e q u a l it y o f t h e pl aye r o f f e r i n g we HKGOLFER.COM

have i n it iated a C oach C er t i f icat ion a nd Development Progra m so t hat a l l t he coaches involved in delivering GA programs can constantly improve and progress their coaching skills and coaching toolbox. This season we ’ve bought a nd i ntegrated new te ch nolog y such a s Track ma n a nd SA M Putt Lab. Trackman is a launch monitor that gives precise data of a player’s impact and is used by over 200 Tour Professionals. SA M Putt Lab is akin to an ‘X-ray’ machine developed to measu re put t i ng st rokes, a nd aga i n is extensively used by the World’s best players. We w a n t t o o f f e r H K p l a y e r s r i c h tournament experiences so t hey can learn and grow their games. Local clubs such as Clear water Bay and Hong Kong GC have been generous in their support in allowing a number of GA Junior’s to compete in their medal competitions. Elite Juniors then get the opportunity to compete internationally so they can test themselves against the best players in the region. This year local Hong Kong top teenage amateur Humphrey Wong qualified for 2016 UBS Hong Kong Open. This young man met and watched European Tour Star David Howell 10 years ago, at the Hong Kong Open. They both played in the event last December and played a practice round match together and the match finished even! This is the power of dream and having a vision! The GA is especially keen is assist players who desire to aspire to Tertiary Education through golf. Currently there are 15 Hong Kong you ng men a nd women who a re enrolled in Golf Universities, many of these through scholarships. This provides players with free or low cost education whilst at the same time giving opport unit y to develop their golf game. This is just a brief overview of some of the GA’s strategy and we believe as a golf association we cannot judge the success of our program based on one player – if so the Fiji golf association is the most successful ever having ownership of former World No 1 player Vijay Si ngh! We wa nt to create oppor t u n it y, pat hways a nd excit i ng gol f experiences for player ’s at ever y stage of the funnel, irrespective of their ambition – whether it is to just have fun playing sport previously unknown to them or if they aspire to be the next World No 1. Next month – in the second part of this 3-part series concerning the development of HK Golf we have asked Jonathan what are the keys to develop elite Juniors? Is it about practice, practice, practice? Jonathan will discuss his tried and tested model to accelerate elite player development.

HKGA’s HSBC Schools Program

Biomechanics Program for National Team Players

10 years after and before among David Howell and Humphrey Wong at the Hong Kong Open

Jonathan Wallett is a well-travelled coach having delivered Academy Programs and Camps for Elite Players in Europe, Asia and Australia for over 15 years, been the Academy Director of ECGA at the prestigious Evian Royal Resort in France and worked on the main Professional Tours for 5 seasons. ( HKGOLFER.COM






Australian Sam Brazel produced a stunning approach shot to the final hole to set up the brilliant birdie which defeated Rafa Cabrera Bello by one shot and secured his first European Tour title at the UBS Hong Kong Open. The 37-year-old was visibly emotional as he lifted the trophy. Brazel spent years toiling in Australia competing in proams to earn a living before he started playing on the Asian Tour in 2013, writes Louie Chan. Photography by Daniel Wong



The emotional Brazel celebrated with his caddie after he secured his first European Tour title at the UBS Hong Kong Open HK GOLFERăƒťJAN 2017


“It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been playing good. It’s just been a bit of a struggle… and it’s all sort of turned around. This is the fruit.” – Sam Brazel

Brazel entered the final day at Fanling tied at the top of the leaderboard alongside Ryder Cup star Cabrera Bello 36


“I was very lucky. That wasn’t the greatest second shot in there but it ended up good and the rest is history.” The ecstatic champion added, “It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been playing good. It’s just been a bit of a struggle with the old irons and my man, Adam, set me up with a new set of bats, and it’s all sort of turned around. This is the fruit.” The Australian began the week ranked 480th in the Official World Golf Ranking but entered the final day at Fanling tied at the top of the leaderboard alongside Ryder Cup star Cabrera Bello in just his 17th European Tour appearance. At one point, there were six players in a tie for the lead on the back nine but Brazel held off a group with 11 European Tour titles between them, and an eight-foot putt on the last handed him a closing 68 and a 13-under-par total. “I think I still had some nerves on the first tee today, but I settled in pretty quickly today. It wasn’t as bad as yesterday. I had a great playing partner in Rafa. I was stoked to play with him for the last two days. It was a thrill to be out there the last few days and I hope that continues and I have a lot more days like

this in the future. I am really looking forward to getting over to Europe and playing on the European Tour. It will be a great privilege.” Cabrera Bello, who had been in superb form all week, had birded the 16th and 17th to set up a grandstand finish down the last but he could only make a par and finish 12-under as Brazel’s incredible approach set up just the second birdie of the day on the closing hole. The 32-year-old said: “If you look at the week overall, it has been a great week, finishing second. Just a little disappointed today. I managed to start good again but then struggled halfway through the front nine. I battled back really hard again, same as yesterday. But then Sam just played a fantastic 18th hole.” “Obviously, I am still proud of the performance. I messed up a little obviously on seven and eight but I stayed calm and waited for my chances. I gave myself lots of opportunities. Some didn’t fall, but at the end, 16 and 17, they were two great putts that did go in. The one on 18th, almost, as well. In the end, it’s a good week. It’s just a bitter taste finishing runner-up.” HKGOLFER.COM

Brazel started the day in a share of the lead with Cabrera Bello but the leading duo both turned in two over par 36 to allow the chasing pack to close the gap and set up a titanic battle on the back nine. Cabrera Bello had birdied the third for the fourth time of the week and when Brazel bogeyed the sixth after finding the sand, the Spaniard led by two shots. The leader bogeyed the seventh after going over the back of the green before a poor chip on the next resulted in a double, and when Brazel went over the back of the ninth for a bogey, it was Willett who led after making birdies on the fourth, sixth, seventh, 12th and 13th. Australian Andrew Dodt had opened with a bogey but turned in 34 after birdies on the fourth, sixth - courtesy of a lengthy putt and ninth, while American David Lipsky had a single birdie on the seventh after a stunning approach to turn in 33. Englishman Tommy Fleetwood recovered from a double-bogey on the third with birdies on the seventh and ninth and when Danny Willett dropped a shot on the 17th, there was a six-way tie for the lead at nine under. Dodt broke out of the pack with a birdie on the 12th but he was not alone for long as Cabrera Bello drove the tenth, Brazel holed from eight feet on the 11th and Lipsky put his tee-shot to the 12th to four feet. Brazel was the next man to hit the front when he put his tee-shot on the 12th to tap-in range but Dodt splashed out of a bunker to birdie the 14th and Lipsky hit another brilliant iron into the 13th. Brazel was looking cool and calm, rolling in a 30-footer on the 13th to get to 12 under and, while Dodt joined him with a gain on the 17th, the two-time winner dropped a shot on the last. Cabrera Bello had been out of sorts but he rolled in from the fringe on the 16th and when he made a 15-footer on the 17th, he and Brazel were back where they began the day, tied at the top. Birdies at the 15th and 17th got Fleetwood to 11 under before playing partner Lipsky found the water on the 18th and all attention turned back to the final group and Brazel’s big finish. Paul Waring was at eight under, a shot ahead of Danny Chia and Pablo Larrazábal, with Jorge Campillo, Marcus Fraser, Jbe Kruger and Jason Scrivener rounding out the top ten at six under. What an epic final round with various players came within touching distance of winning the UBS Hong Kong Open as the European Tour brought down the curtain on 2016 in dramatic fashion. HKGOLFER.COM

Cabrera Bello, who had been in superb form all week, had birded the 16th and 17th to set up a grandstand finish down the last but he could only make a par

Brazel lining up for his eight-foot putt on the 18th green, which handed him the title minutes later HK GOLFER・JAN 2017



Ryder Cup star Rafa Cabrera Bello finished runner-up

UBS Hong Kong Open in Pictures The 2016 UBS Hong Kong Open saw a total attendance of 46,728 for the week, with 20,221 fans passing through the gates of Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling on free Thursday and Friday. Several Hong Kong players battled it out at the first two rounds but none of them made the weekend. It was a lot to do with the strongest field in recent years. A total of 68 players have made the weekend with level par or better. Here is a pictorial review of the 2016 UBS Hong Kong Open. Photography by Daniel Wong



Veteran star Thongchai Jaidee, defending champion Justin Rose and Scott Hend all finished out of top ten.

Liang Wen-chong, China’s favourite golfing son.

Ian Poulter lining up his putt.

Four times Hong Kong Open winner Miguel Ángel Jiménez.

Patrick Reed talking with his caddie.

Danny Willett hitting his shot inside the fairway bunker of 18th.




HK teenage amateur Humphrey Wong.

HK amateur Terrance Ng with his caddie/ mentor Ducky Tang.

Local player Yannick Artigolle.

James Stewart wins the HKGC Trophy as the leading local player. 40


Security guard trailing the putt of local player Yue Yin-ho.

Team HK featuring Leon D’Souza and Humphrey Wong. HKGOLFER.COM

Can you sign for me please?

Got it! Thumbs up!

Keep walking!

Come on Rafa!

Playable? Unplayable?

The Masters champion in action.




䐀爀攀愀洀 圀椀渀攀猀 椀猀 琀栀攀 漀昀ǻ挀椀愀氀 椀洀瀀漀爀琀攀爀 漀昀 䔀爀渀椀攀 䔀氀猀 圀椀渀攀猀ꀀ昀漀爀 䠀漀渀最 䬀漀渀最 愀渀搀 䴀愀挀愀甀⸀


Tribute to the


Chuah Choo Chiang, Communications Director of the Asian Tour, looks back at how 2016 unfolded and pays tribute to the stars and heroes who produced outstanding performance in Asia.

Daniel Wong

Scott Hend is by far the most successful international golfer in the region, earning over US$4 million in career earnings in Asia since 2007 44




“The Asian Tour also celebrated eight first-time winners and none was more deserving than Australian Sam Brazel, who stunned an elite field in Hong Kong to win his biggest cheque yet.”


Daniel Wong

An emotional victory for the 37-year-old Brazel at the UBS Hong Kong Open, who started playing on the Asian Tour in 2013 after spending years toiling in Lismore, Australia competing in pro-ams to earn a living and ply his trade 46


appy New Year folks! And what a year it promises to be for the Asian Tour in 2017. There will be plenty of goodies to look forward to over the next 12 months, with top golfing action starting later in January with the SMBC Singapore Open at the Sentosa Golf Club, home of the Asian Tour, and then stretching across the length and breadth of the Asian region and into Europe as well. However, before we dive into what the future may hold for golf in Asia, it would only be appropriate for us to look back at how 2016 unfolded and for us to take time and pay tribute to the stars and heroes who produced outstanding performances. First up, take a bow, Scott Hend of Australia, our new Asian Tour Order of Merit champion. At 43, Hend is the first Aussie to become the region’s number one golfer, replacing India’s Anirban Lahiri, and he will have the honour and privilege to fly the Asian Tour flag when he competes both here and abroad in the new season. Hend joined the Asian Tour in 2007 after his career on the PGA Tour was curtailed by a

serious hand injury. It didn’t take him long to establish himself in Asia, first finishing second in Qualifying School behind Malaysia’s Ben Leong and then coming in runner-up again in the season-opening Pakistan Open, this time to another Malaysian Airil Rizman. Fast forward by 10 seasons, and the USbased Hend has emerged as one of the greatest players on the Asian Tour, winning nine times and capping it all by winning the prestigious Merit crown for the first time in his career. He is also by far the most successful international golfer in the region, earning over US$4 million in career earnings in Asia since 2007 and over the past five years, he has notched eight victories which is the most by any golfer during the span of time on the Asian Tour. “It’s quite special. Obviously winning any Order of Merit anywhere is very special, and this will stay with me forever,” said Hend after the season-ending UBS Hong Kong Open in December. “It’s just a culmination of a lot of years on the Asian Tour and coming so close and not getting over the line; it’s finally nice to reach the top and grab the trophy,” added Hend, whose achievements in Asia include finishing HKGOLFER.COM


Powerful Thai Pavit Tangkamolprasert and Chinese Taipei’s Chan Shihchang, products of the Asian Development Tour, were victorious as well for the first time on the Asian Tour. In fact, Chan finished an impressive fourth on the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit as he later won a second title in Japan

AFP PHOTO/David Paul Morris/Asian Tour

runner-up twice on the Merit list and fourth on three other occasions. The Asian Tour also celebrated eight first-time winners and none was more deserving than Australian Sam Brazel, who stunned an elite field in Hong Kong to win his biggest cheque yet. He brilliantly went head-to-head with Ryder Cup star Rafa Cabrera Bello over the weekend rounds and nailed an eight-foot birdie on the closing hole to triumph by one shot. It was indeed an emotional victory for the 37-year-old Brazel, who started playing on the Asian Tour in 2013 after spending years toiling in Lismore, Australia competing in pro-ams to earn a living and ply his trade. Other memorable victories were produced by Chinese Taipei’s Lu Wei-chih, who claimed a popular home win at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters which came four years after he underwent brain surgery to remove a nonmalignant tumor. India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar also overcame years of frustration from a wrist injury to win twice in Korea and Indonesia while powerful Thai Pavit Tangkamolprasert and Chinese Taipei’s Chan Shih-chang, products of the Asian Development Tour, were victorious as well for the first time on the Asian Tour. In fact, Chan finished an impressive fourth on the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit as he later won a second title in Japan. Other top performers who shone in 2016 was Korea’s 21-year-old Jeunghun Wang. After being picked by captain Jeev Milkha Singh to represent Team Asia at the EurAsia Cup in Malaysia in January, he went on to show his immense potential by winning backto-back titles in Morocco and Mauritius, eclipsing the record held by the late Seve Ballesteros as the youngest player to win two European Tour titles. Thai veteran star Thongchai Jaidee continued to show that old is indeed gold with a fine win at the French Open while China’s Wu Ashun and Li Haotong came close to winning the World Cup of Golf in Australia which raised quite a few eyebrows. Looking into golf’s crystal ball, the future holds bright indeed for the Asian Tour who entered into a strategic partner alliance with the European Tour in 2016 in a key move to further strengthen and grow the game in Asia and around the world. With greater playing opportunities, the stage will become bigger for Asia’s top stars to hog the limelight with more great performances to capture the imagination of golf fans, sponsors and television viewers, It’ll be another heck of a ride in 2017. Buckle up. The Asian Tour, this is #whereitsAT.












PineCreek Golf Property Holdings Ltd does not provide Hong Kong properties


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Following two score years and more of recruitment from within, it’s more than a year now since the European Tour decided not to go native when replacing the long-term incumbent George O’Grady by appointing sports media professional, the Canadian Keith Pelley to the role of CEO at the Wentworth-based organisation. Mike Wilson caught up with the Canadian, a man with a myriad and complex range of issues to resolve and opportunities to explore, but who goes into this year with confidence and the new Rolex Series under his belt.


rue, the 52-year-old exPresident of Rogers Media inherited what looked – on the surface at least – a winning hand, a talent pool arguably as deep as the golden generation of Seve, Faldo, Greg Norman, Langer et al, total prize money of almost US$150million, plus the near US$40million on offer at the, ‘Majors,’ tournaments most weeks of the year across 29 different countries, 10 of them in Asia, a remarkable run of Ryder Cup wins and golf back in the Olympics at least until 2020. Pelley’s first major strategic announcement 50


was his, ‘Players first,’ strategy, and, when asked whether widening and deepening the sponsor pool was not a greater priority, the Canadian said, “We are in the content and entertainment business with golf as our platform and the players are our stars. While our Players First Philosophy means doing what is best for them in terms of increasing prize money, increasing playing opportunities and improving the playing experience, we are also very much focused on a ‘Partner First’ philosophy too, working closely with our partners and sponsors and shaping our business model to reflect that and enhance their experience too.” HKGOLFER.COM

We believe we need a stronger content offering to enable us to reach larger audiences across multiple platforms, and that's what the Rolex Series is about.


both circuits, that should benefit Asian players more than their European cousins, but Pelley appeared to rule out a formal merger between the two, insisting, “The Tours will, however, retain their own separate identity in terms of brand and logo, and will still be managed by their own individual Boards.” Keith Pelley ended last year on something of a roll, announcing the first seven events in the new Rolex Series at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, including the BMW PGA Championship, the Irish, Scottish, Italian and Turkish Airlines Opens, the Nedbank Golf Challenge and the Dubai finale. The Rolex Series comprises an initial series of seven premium events each with a minimum US$7m prize fund, but the Canadian’s ambitious plans do not stop there. “We expect to have at least eight Rolex Series events in 2017,” he said, adding, “We’re currently under discussions with other partners as we speak. So, our goal is a minimum of eight in 2017, rising to 10 by 2018.

Image Courtesy of GolfSupportNL

Then, the latest incarnation of the relationship between the European and Asian Tours, surely the longest engagement in sport without a marriage ceremony at the end of it emerged, a, ‘Strategic alliance,’ which looked and sounded like a rehash of the 2009 accord announced at that year’s Scottish Open. “As far as discussions with the Asian Tour go, we were delighted to announce a ‘Strategic Alliance’ which officially ratifies the relationship between the two Tours” he said, adding, “The formalisation of the partnership will see the two Tours now work together to develop professional golf in Asia – from a new joint office in Singapore – combining commercial and marketing resources to explore and maximise opportunities for both Tours not only across the continent of Asia, but globally,” continued the father-of-two explaining, “For members of both Tours this important development will also see a significant exchange of playing opportunities.” In theory, given the respective prize funds on



Getty Images/AFP

Keith Pelley ended last year on something of a roll, announcing the first seven events in the new Rolex Series at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship. Matthew Fitzpatrick poses with the trophy after winning the title.



“We believe we need a stronger content offering to enable us to reach larger audiences across multiple platforms, and that’s what the Rolex Series is about, and we need a product that can grow and grow over time and also one that provides a strong financial offering for our young players so they don’t have to go to the United States, he said” Speaking soon after the conclusion of the last event of 2016, the UBS Hong Kong Open, the Canadian described the event as, “One of the leading events in the Far East,” adding, “There is something unique and defining about national open championships and the UBS Hong Kong Open has been central to the collaboration between the European and Asian Tours since 2002, boasting a wonderful Roll of Honour. “Miguel Ángel Jiménez winning the title on four occasions is a remarkable feat and when you view the other champions including Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, José Maria Olazábal, Pádraig Harrington and Colin Montgomerie, it is clear not only how important this title is to our top players, but also the calibre of golfer you need to be to win it,” continued Pelley. “Last month’s UBS Hong Kong Open also underlined the continuing importance of the event to our members, with Justin [Rose], Miguel [Ángel Jiménez], Danny Willett and Ian Poulter amongst the European Tour contingent,” said Pelley, adding, “It is refreshing you see a new, young talent emerging and congratulations to Sam Brazel for edging out Rafa Cabrero-Bello with a fine birdie on the 72nd hole - it’s always great to see a tournament won in that fashion and when you consider there were 18 different nationalities in the top 30 in Hong Kong, with every continent on the planet represented, one realises just what a truly global circuit the European Tour has become.” ‘Pale, male and stale,’ has for some time been an alliterative accusation levelled at golf in general and the pro game in particular, with tournaments effectively offering sponsors and fans the same product and format as when the European Tour started out back in 1972, 72hole, stroke play, half-way-cut, pro-am, TV exposure, corporate entertainment, admittedly with a bit of social media tagged on today and Keith Pelley not only accepts that but respects it too, whilst keen to find new ways to draw new, and younger audiences. “Golf is a traditional sport and we will never lose sight of that, but that shouldn’t mean we should be frightened to innovate. The European Tour is at the forefront of innovation in terms of different formats and in terms of the way we view the game through our changing and evolving digital landscape,” he says, insisting, “We are HKGOLFER.COM


Pelley refused to rule out. “The European Tour is a rapidly expanding global company which requires space to accommodate the growing staff numbers needed to manage such a business, so we are always looking at all options,” he explained, speculating, “If we did move away from our traditional Wentworth base, it would be 100% for space reasons, not for any other reason. In terms of other locations, we already have offices in Dubai, Singapore, Spain and Hong Kong and recently opened offices in China and Korea.” The culture at Wentworth under Pelley is said to be, ‘Less gentlemen’s comfortable club, more dynamic business atmosphere” and, interestingly, given his liberal use of the word, “Global,’ peppering our conversation, and with more than half its events outside European boundaries, one senses that an upwardlymobile, outward-looking European Tour could be emerging just in time for the UK to leave the European stage. And, with the recruitment of Josh Burack, a like-minded, fellow professional businessman at the helm of the Asian Tour, perhaps at last, could that lengthy engagement may end eventually end in consummation and marriage with a mutual meeting of minds and interests?

Image Courtesy of GolfSupportNL

constantly looking at all different ways to offer sponsors value for money and spectators fun and enjoyment. Look at the recent BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth for example. We had format innovation in terms of the made for TV Pressure Putt Challenge on the Wednesday night featuring our professionals and stars from other sports and we had the BMW Shootout on the Sunday afternoon where members of the public tried to hole in one on the second once the final group had gone through. “We also had digital innovation for our fans that week such as the use of Facebook Live and a 360 degree digital camera, while the success of some of our viral videos such as the Fastest Hole in Golf we shot at Valderrama a couple of months ago has been fantastic [and] we will be doing more of that in the coming months, engaging more with sponsors and partners along the way,” said the former Canadian TV chief, but, even with the new Super 6 format announced in conjunction with the PGA Tour of Australia, it looks like evolution rather than evolution down Wentworth way. And, speaking of Wentworth, rumours have been rife ever since Chinese conglomerate Reignwood controversially took over the exclusive stockbroker-belt club that the European Tour HQ could be on the move, something

The culture at Wentworth under Pelley is said to be, ‘Less gentlemen’s comfortable club, more dynamic business atmosphere”. HK GOLFER・JAN 2017



12 Key

Questions for 2017

Another year, another unrelenting season of golf lies ahead, but, apart from the advent of the Rolex Series on the European Tour and the on-going insurgency of the rapacious PGA Tour into territories it has no rightful business to be in, don’t hold your breath expecting change this – or for that matter – any other year, writes our new columnist Mike Wilson. Photography by Getty Images/AFP





Jay Monahan, PGA Tour Commissioner

1. Post Olympic Blues?

Whilst Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson just about saved the bacon of the first men’s Olympic golf tournament in 112 years, it was a case of ladies first in Rio as the LPGA fully-embraced the Olympic rings, seized their opportunity and rightfully reaped their rewards. In a report released late last year, by Syngenta literally-entitled, The Global Economic Value of Increased Female Participation in Golf, it was predicted that, despite accounting for only 24% of active golfers worldwide, women’s golf is where future growth lies, 29% of non or lapsed female golfers indicated they were either, ‘Interested,’ or, ‘Very interested,’ in taking-up or resuming golf. From a 14,000 sample across eight markets in North America, Europe and Asia, the study calculated a potential addition financial value of US$35m, and that the gentler gender was considerable more likely to encourage their children to play the game too. Encouraging news in an otherwise bleak outlook at stagnation and decline, and, good luck to the girls for picking up the baton whilst we men rearrange the deckchairs on the Titanic.

2. Who is the Man with the Toughest Job in Golf?

That’s a close call between recently appointed CEO of the Asian Tour, Josh Burack and the sinecure handed to Tim Finchem’s deputy Jay Monahan as his replacement as PGA Tour Commissioner? That’s a tough call between the two Americans; true, the bar is set considerably lower for Burack, who replaced the redoubtable but timeworn Kyi Hla Han, the capacity for growth is significantly greater and the regional economic outlook brighter, but the Asian Tour lacks traction and the financial muscle 58


of the American monolith and he is a relative newcomer to the complex world of professional golf, where keeping multiple stakeholders happy takes a great deal of skill. Meanwhile, for Monahan, he has the might of the richest circuit in the world behind him, is a known entity to the Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida set-up which, thanks to its muscle can do virtually anything it wants, where it wants and when it wants. But, in purely percentage terms, Monahan has slimmer margins for growth and error than his US compatriot out East. Like him or loathe him – and this correspondent veers towards the latter – Finchem grew the PGA Tour prize fund from $56.4 million in 1994 to over $300 million this term. Whether Monaghan, a marketing man to Finchem’s legal and political bent and Burack’s background in TV can achieve double-digit, let alone the triple-digit increase in the only statistic that ultimately matters, money, to his bosses – aka, the players – in his tenure is open to question, and Finchem’s reign coincided with that of a certain Tiger Woods. Perhaps Burack’s best bet would be to cultivate Woods in the dying embers of a glittering career, draw him back towards his Asian roots with huge appearance fees and lucrative course design contracts. All-in-all, I’d call it a score draw, Burack has much to gain, Monahan much more to lose, but, on balance, I’d hand it to Burack after a suddendeath play-off.

3. Will President Trump be Good for Golf?

Of course, he will; regardless of the PGA Tour, the R&A, the USGA and the toothless WGC distancing themselves from candidate Trump and his more extreme campaigning rhetoric. Witness politicians worldwide, including Senate speaker Paul Ryan holding their collective noses and offering warm congratulations to the candidate-turned-President within hours of an election victory that was not such a shock as many outsiders thought. Trump’s US golf resorts will be coining it in, wealthy recreational players revelling in playing courses owned by Mr. President, hoping some of his stardust might stick. Meanwhile, the cache of having the most powerful man on the planet pop in for the final day of this year’s Senior PGA Championship within spitting distance of the White House, or, for that matter – and irrespective of all he said about women during an ugly election campaign – this year’s US Women’s Open at Trump, Bedminster. Moreover, why would the spineless WGC not be lobbying to return their WGC event back HKGOLFER.COM

to Trump Doral, the R&A to welcome Trump Turnberry back in from the cold for the 2021 Open Championship, with an invitation to Mr. President to St. Andrews 2020 probably already in the post, even the European Tour taking the Scottish Open to Trump’s other magnificent Scottish links course near Aberdeen. Power, especially where sport and politics meet, is the most powerful aphrodisiac on offer, perhaps the only (Spanish) fly in the ointment could be in China, where The Donald’s overtures to Taiwan have irked the USA’s bank managers in Beijing, but, all in all, never mind Beijing, it’ll be more a case of Kerching!

4. Statistics and Bad Lies

The word is out, golf is in perfect health, basking in its post-Olympic euphoria, talk of millions of youngsters taking up the game in medalhungry countries such as China and India, even Russia, I read somewhere recently, a sudden and inexplicable reversal in decline in participation levels in traditional golf territories such as North America and Europe, forecasts that the Olympics in Brazil will see South Americans disavow a passion for football that is in their DNA, only to take up the royal and ancient game. Golf’s powerbrokers, from the R&A, to the USGA, the IGF, almost every acronym associated with golf, have spent the postOlympic period insisting that not only is all well, in fact, it’s never been better. Why then has Nike, admittedly a relative latecomer to the game inspired by the rise and rise of Tiger Woods recently announced it is withdrawing, lock, stock and barrel, from golf equipment, clubs, balls, the lot, with TaylorMade making similar sounds. Speaking at the recent HSBC Golf Business Forum in the USA, Jack Nicklaus, a man who knows a thing or two about the true state of the game, from his course design, Golden Bear brands and country club portfolio said, “Fact is, more golf courses have closed in the US in each of the last 10 years than have opened.” But the legend of the game hit the nail on the head when he said, “Tournament golf is in a healthy state now - healthier than it’s ever been and still on the rise,” which means that a maximum of 1,000 of the 60m golfers worldwide are in a good place, a very good place, some earning a million bucks a year without ever having to make a victory speech. That’s why, at a ‘State of the Game’ interview with Forbes Magazine, Pete Bevacqua, CEO of the PGA of America, Mike Davis, CEO of the USGA, Tim Finchem, (the then) PGA TOUR Commissioner, Steve Mona, CEO of World Golf Foundation or Mike Whan, HKGOLFER.COM

LPGA Commissioner, all talked their book up relentlessly, without even a nod to the plight facing the recreational, non-elite end of the game which, in the final analysis, is their one and only paymaster. According to the National Golf Foundation, US golf has lost five-million players over the past decade with 20% of the remaining 25 million golfers likely to quit in the next few years, whilst the number of Millennials aged 18 to 34 participating in sports such as running rose by 29% from 2009 to 2013, during which time, the proportion playing golf fell by 13%. Same story in Europe, golf participation in England down by 2.5% year-on-year since the Millennium, France, Scandinavia and Spain, same declining trend, China, once the source of optimism is said to be flatlining, India, another great hope has yet to take to golf. The only light at the end of a very long and potentially dark tunnel is women’s golf, which is forecast to increase by 17% by 2020. In late 2015, the European Tour announced that golf participation in the UK, far from being in decline, is actually flourishing, especially amongst a younger demographic, Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of The European Tour, saying, “Our ‘Golf Actives Survey’ suggests our sport is very healthy, participation in it is changing and the younger generation have more options to experience our wonderful game. All of which just goes to show that you can commission consultants to tell you when you want to hear, provide the evidence to support it and remain in denial, or you can read and take heed of the official statistics and listen to the likes of Nike to discover the real picture and act before it’s too late. The game of golf is in great shape for 0.0015% of its players, for the massive majority of us, until the game’s ‘leaders’ get real and act, it’s like bunker sand slipping slowly but inexorably through the game’s fingers.

5. Will Tiger Ever Rule the Jungle Again?

Over the years, Bunker Mentality has been lessthan-kind to one Eldrick Tont ‘Tiger’ Woods, and why not? Great golfer, yes, the best ever, the jury is out, a force for the future of golf, not a chance.  Less chance indeed than there was of the great man being the authentic family-man, whiter-than-while all-American sporting hero he purported to be, whilst, all the time, living a lie, conning not only the world but, more importantly, himself. Tiger’s long-awaited and overdue comeback in his own appositely-named, self-congratulatory, ‘Hero World Challenge,’ – why else would HK GOLFER・JAN 2017


the man not so long ago the most bankable sportsman on earth want to endorse a low-cost, Indian-made moped – saw a cameo performance that was once par for the course. Woods shot a seven-under-par 65 in the second round, an echo of the past, but, wearing his Sunday red, carded a 76 to finish 15th out of 17 and a full 14-shots behind arguably the hottest property in golf as the new season starts, Japanese wunderkind Hideki Matsuyama. Will Woods win again, quite probably, will he add a 15th ‘Major,’ possibly, will he equal, let alone break the Jack Nicklaus record of 18 of them, there’s more chance of me winning the monthly medal!

6. Can Anyone Solve Golf’s Multi Media Muddle?

Three pieces of low-key, well-hidden and – to the average punter at least – unimportant news were simultaneously released just as the holiday season began, and none, individually or collectively made happy reading for professional golf as we know it. First-up, research by Ampere Analysis found that 18 to 24-year-olds, the younger end of the so-called ‘Millennial’ age group, were, ‘Significantly less likely,’ to consider themselves sports fans than the overall population. According to Ampere’s findings, young 60


people are now 17% less likely to identify sport as their favourite form of programming than the general population and that traditional TV audiences for sport were down by some 20% in a decade, including the hallowed English Premier League, whilst Formula 1 has lost 35% of its live TV audience since 2008. Second, SportsBusiness Daily reported that audiences for the 2016 Ryder Cup were also down by 17% in the USA, despite the Stars & Stripes snatching the tiny gold trophy, in their own backyard and time-zones, from the clutches of those pesky Europeans for the first time in eight years. Thirdly, YouTube research revealed that six out of 10 people of all ages (and eight out of 10 ‘Millennials,’) preferred online video platforms like Netflix and Amazon to live TV, and that the average YouTube viewing session was 40 minutes with the optimum length of a YouTube video was four-minutes and 30-seconds. Dull, boring, irrelevant statistics, unless you are a major traditional broadcaster with an expensive live sports portfolio, the marketing chief of a professional golf circuit or a businessto-consumer sponsor of a multi-million-dollar golf tournament. Golf, as TV content is predicated upon the viewer having the time and the inclination to watch a four-day tournament unfold, like Test Match Cricket, the subtle nuances the main attraction for more mature viewers. Perhaps those number-crunchers and algorithm wonks at Nike HQ in Beaverton, Oregon, USA have got it spot-on when deciding to pull the rug on its two main golf draw cards, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy and shutdown its golf equipment division with almost immediate effect.

7. Doubting Thomas or Bjorn Again?

So, the European captaincy for the 2018 Ryder Cup in France has been decided, and it wasn’t so much an election as a coronation, of the Prince of Denmark, Thomas Bjorn. Those of us who watched in horror as Darren Clarke acceded to the throne last time around in what was, by anyone’s measure, a captaincy cursed with cronyism, conceit and complacency have, with Bjorn’s appointment, learned that the coveted – and financially valuable – role is a sinecure for the establishment of the Wentworth faithful. And the great and the good such as Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter are already jockeying for position in search of the nod for 2020 and 2022 when their sell-by dates as competitors will be past, whereas the quiet, unassuming Pádraig Harrington – the HKGOLFER.COM

brightest and most charismatic of the bunch by a country mile – sits in the wings waiting. Having found Clarke and Bjorn two of the European Tour’s awkward squad in media relations, the polar opposite of the ever-obliging, unfailingly polite three-time ‘Major’ winner, both frequently puffing on a fag playing the only Olympic sport where it’s permissible to smoke during competition, one can only assume that diplomacy, as the knighted Sir Nick found to his cost in a calamitous captaincy campaign in 2008, is not a primary skill set for what could and should be one of the most rigorous selection processes for one of the most challenging roles in sport.

8. Poor Timing All Round?

Congratulations to the European Tour for elevating the status of seven of its events to prize funds of US$7m or more, but, with not a single one of the seven in Asia, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of the re-heated, recycled EurAsia alliance loudly trumpeted last year. And it was, in hindsight, poor timing on the part of the normally surefooted BMW GolfSport; the erstwhile BMW Masters, which took place in Shanghai from 2012 until being dropped four-years later would have fitted the bill perfectly. But, sadly, with the Volvo China Open and the Shenzhen International both underperforming and the Malaysian Open replaced by the amorphous Maybank Championship, it’s hard to see a logical candidate ready and able to take on the mantle. Meanwhile, for such a respected horologist, one wonders about the strategic thinking at Rolex HQ in Geneva; whilst Asian economies are cooling down, they are nothing like as moribund as here in Europe, and it’s not so long ago that China was being touted as the global capital of Bling.

9. Would Someone Please Put the IFGPGAT Out of Its Misery?

This question has been asked more than once by this correspondent; exactly what purpose does the International Federation of PGA Tours fulfil? Since it was founded back in 1996, with the less-than-lofty aspiration of, “Joint sanctioning by the members of the International Federation of PGA Tours of significant competitions, including some at the world championship level for the game’s top players,” the organisation, which lives cheek-by-jowl with the PGA Tour – in fact it shares the same address and ZIP code as the world’s dominant circuit – has overseen chaos and anarchy in the development of the HKGOLFER.COM

professional game. The Articles of Association of the Federation, which incidentally saw the Asian Tour and the LPGA Tour join the party along with politically expedient organisations such as the China Golf Association and the Korean PGA, are ‘Private & Confidential,’ has proved little more than a figleaf ensuring that the interests of its landlords, the PGA Tour come first and foremost. With global golf growing exponentially around the turn of the new Millennium, fuelled by the high-octane arrival of Tiger Woods, one might have thought that the Federation might have been charged with bringing some order to proceedings and ensuring fair-shares all round for its stakeholders. Fat chance. Of the 61 WGC events staged to date, only 14 have been played outside the USA, eight of those by necessity courtesy of HSBC’s commitment to China, whilst Australia has hosted one, Europe five, Japan and South Africa, both founder members, none, Asia, the same round number. Now, notwithstanding the construction of President Trump’s, “Big, beautiful wall,” between the USA and Mexico, another sitting PGA Tour tenant at Ponte Vedra Beach, the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica has secured the hosting rights to the fourth WGC event, formerly known as the Cadillac Championship. HK GOLFER・JAN 2017


Meanwhile, if anyone can explain to me the sense, the logic and the morality of the PGA Tour waltzing into Japan, Korea and, with the Asian Tour, into Malaysia, or the European Tour, the ink on the latest EurAsia Alliance barely dry, marching into China for the Volvo China Open and the Shenzhen International, the former with the beleaguered OneAsia, the latter without because for reasons yet to be fully explained, the Asian Tour is persona non grata in the PRC, I’d be grateful for the insight. Without the semblance of a strategy, with just a single meeting each year, without one women’s WGC event even on the furthest horizon and with Japan, the rest of Asia and South Africa all apparently excluded, could someone please do what they do to sick animals that have no quality of or purpose in life and put the lame, inept, incompetent and inefficient Federation out of its misery?

10. WADA Hell is Going on in Golf

Having succumbed itself to a rigorous 13 weeks of drug testing last summer in order to qualify for the Olympics, the game of golf in general and the PGA Tour in particular has reverted to its old clandestine ways when it comes to one of the most important questions in contemporary sport; can you truly believe in what you are watching? Whilst top tennis stars such as Andy Murray and athletes like Usain Bolt require to advise their national anti-doping agency where they will be for a nominated hour each and every day of the year, golfers calmly go about their business without a care in the world. The R&A, the USGA and the European Tour all insist that regular but unspecified testing takes place at a number of their various events, whist the PGA Tour simply thumbs its nose to sporting convention; the only element of the sport that has fully embraced drug testing from education to testing is the LPGA and they are to be congratulated for that. The routine response when questioned on the issue of doping in golf is the hoary old chestnut, that, ‘There isn’t a drug available that could enhance a golfer’s game.’ 62


Really? In a game where brute strength is now a prerequisite, could the use of Anabolic Steroids or Human Growth Hormone (HGH) not help one player to out-drive another by a crucial 10, 15 or 20 yards, maybe shave a shot or two off the scorecard? And in a sport where a missed pressure putt could cost a player significant six-figure sum and / or a tasty sponsor’s bonus, would beta-blockers not help calm the nerves as they have done, in the past, in snooker. Meanwhile, performance-enhancing drugs need not necessarily enhance the performance there and then; many doping violations take place out of competition, to enhance training capacity, or expedite recovery from a potentiallyexpensive injury, which is the rationale behind the ‘Whereabouts Rule.’ But, as the saying goes, ‘If you don’t go looking, you won’t find anything,’ and golf is in denial when it comes to not only the possibility of a doping problem, but also the doubt that avoidance of the issue casts over the image of a game supposedly based on the ultimate integrity. However, the elephant in the room is recreational drugs, such as cocaine or cannabis, and nobody will ever convince me that, given that sport and golf reflect society at large, that a travelling circus of wealthy young men with time on their hands and money to burn, does not have at least a handful of lads who might do a line of coke or smoke a spliff from time to time. That’s what was rumoured to have happened to a certain Dustin Johnson went on a sabbatical to, ‘Confront his demons,’ yet the PGA Tour conveniently used personal privacy as camouflage, before nominating a player who should have been serving a ban as their Player of the Year.

11. In Search of the Holy Grail?

Golf as a game is in a hole, and it knows it, whilst the elite, professional end of the sport could be heading towards the edge of a precipice, if not next year, or in five-years-time, but, within a decade, things could look quite different, and not for the better. Time is of the essence and at the heart of golf’s problems, recreational and professional. We are working longer and harder than ever, we have family demands on our time, the days of, as ex-R&A CEO Peter Dawson once described, “On the Saturday morning when the guy gets up or the lady gets up and out of the marital bed, if you like, and goes off and plays golf with his chums and comes back in the afternoon,” are, for most of us at least, long since gone, the leisure consumer, or sport or sports HKGOLFER.COM

12. Has OneAsia Been Pronounced Dead?

Having been present at the somewhat bizarre launch of OneAsia at the start of the 2009 Volvo China Open in Beijing, having all-but gate-crashed the tournament at the expense of the Asian Tour, it appeared an unconventional and undiplomatic way of introducing itself on the professional golfing stage as, and I recall the words as clear as they were yesterday, it claimed it was, “The future of men’s professional golf in Asia.” Now into its ninth year as the European Tour’s co-sanctioning partner at the official open championship of China, much has changed; an average of 10 events each year dropped away to HKGOLFER.COM

just seven in 2016 and four last term, the renegade circuit even taking to listing the Masters, the US Open, the Open Championship and even the Olympics in a vain attempt to make the numbers look respectable. It seems that OneAsia seems to have spent almost as much time in litigation and dispute than it has on the tees, fairways and greens of the continent, first a bitter legal fight with the incumbent, member-owned Asian Tour, now apparently with its key founders in Korea. 2016 total prize money on OneAsia was a fraction over US$5million, which wouldn’t buy you a lower-tier tournament on the PGA Tour, and, whilst the Asian Tour isn’t exactly pulling-up any trees, at least it has some forward momentum and heading in the right direction. But, rather than being the future of men’s professional golf in Asia, OneAsia, which was a flawed concept from the get-go has held back the development of the men’s game in the Far East, helping turn sponsors off for fear of the curse of the corporate animal, reputational damage. Meanwhile, its only keynote sponsor, Volvo, until 2015 world golf’s most benevolent backer has changed out of all recognition, rethinking its entire approach to professional golf, from a global marketing collaboration between the heavy automotive Volvo Group and the Geely Automotive-owned Volvo Cars to a national project solely for Volvo Cars China. And Volvo, following the departure of the eminent Mel Pyatt in 2008 is not entirely without blame; caught on the back foot with the OneAsia hijack of its most important event, had the Swedish brand dug its heels in and shown loyalty to its long-term partner, the Asian Tour, OneAsia would have been still born and the Singapore based players circuit in a far healthier place than it is today, whilst Volvo may still have been a force to be reckoned with on the global golf stage. If only, if only, the epitaph of many a sporting initiative, but even though there may still be the faintest sign of a pulse at the Hong Kong-based OneAsia, it would be something of a feat to make it into a decade without the last rights being read. HK GOLFER・JAN 2017

AFP PHOTO/Paul Lakatos/OneAsia

TV has never had more choice. And so, golf, at all levels goes off in search of the Holy Grail. The R&A has concocted a nine-hole championship for amateurs, whilst ignoring the issue of slow play at the Open, when, at St. Andrews in 2015, play was held up for half-anhour whilst a minor rules infraction was ironed out. And the European Tour, in league with the Australasian PGA Tour has cooked-up a confusing and convoluted new, ‘Super-6’ format in Perth next month, a regular full-field stroke play, with a regular half-way cut after two rounds, a second cut to 24 after 54 holes, the two-dozen survivors then reverting to a six-hole, match-play shoot-out. A sledgehammer to crack a nut in a game already bewildering to all but the golfing cognoscenti. In reality, what golf really needs is to get over itself, lighten-up; at the recreational level, let the whole family play nine or 18 holes as they – the customers - see fit, let them wear shorts, tee shirts, heaven forbid, without collars, make golf less stiff, more informal, even fun! At the professional end, get rid of those overofficious stewards and their ‘Quiet Please’ signs, let the crowds engage, allow the players to wear shorts, interview the leaders at the halfway house, the days of the stern and perfunctory ‘On the tee from Scotland,’ introductions of the redoubtable Ivor Robson are a thing of the past, build-up the stars of the show with panache, remember golf part of the ‘sports entertainment’ business. And, if professional golf really wants to get creative, let’s have a WGC Mixed Doubles Match Play, mini-orders of merit with bonus money at the end of each, an Under-25’s Open where players can dress down with the kids; that’s how to develop the female and younger audiences. But does golf have the vision, let alone the courage, only time will tell, but the very midlong-term future of the game is at stake?


World's Golf Course Designer of the Year

World's Best New Golf Course




Caddying at the

PGA of Australia Media

Island Paradise



Our Hong Kong-based teaching professional Nathan Goulding shared his experience caddying for Brandt Snedeker, who romped to an emphatic win to finish 16 under at the Fiji International last October.



What impressed me the most about Brandt’s game was his ability to hit the ball out of the middle of the clubface. Only once did he not hit with perfect contact for the entire week.


PGA of Australia Media

Brandt Snedeker was the major draw card for the 2016 Fiji International, who had been part of the USA team winning Ryder Cup where he went undefeated in the previous week 68


s a junior golfer, you often dream of sinking a putt to win the championship on the last hole. As a golf enthusiast, you wonder what it would be like playing in front of thousands of fans cheering you to victory. Unfortunately, the majority of us golfers are unable to live such an experience. Last September, I was very fortunate to be offered the chance to caddy for Brandt Snedeker in a tournament in Fiji. I got to experience the next best thing as a golf professional and admirer of watching athletes perform at an elite level. I was able to partner with one of the best golfers in the world, watch him prepare, perform and communicate strategies throughout the course of a tournament. I’ve caddied a little previously on a few different professional tours but they were all for friends and didn’t involve too much in depth analysis of what a professional caddy’s job entails. I knew caddying for Brandt that I had to try to be as professional as I could and thorough as I could because that’s what he would expect from his regular caddy. I wasn’t sure how Brandt would perform in

Fiji. The previous week he had been part of the USA team winning Ryder Cup where he went undefeated. I wasn’t sure if he would be still on a high from winning, or jetlagged from the long journey over. As he wasn’t arriving until Wednesday, I arranged for a flight to get in the day before to walk the course and get a feel for how best to play it. When meeting him for the pro-am on Wednesday he was surprisingly fresh and still very upbeat from the experience the few days before. This was the first-time Brandt had seen the course, however had heard about it from his friend Matt Kuchar, who won the previous year. Since Brandt was the major draw card for the event he played with the top tournament organisers and sponsors who were exceptionally friendly and provided great hospitality for both Brandt and myself throughout the entire week. Getting a feel for the course and interacting with playing partners is general what takes place during pro-ams. Brandt’s tee time schedule for the first two days was late then early which suited him fine. The first day was a little breezy in the latter parts of the afternoon but if you played well HKGOLFER.COM

Sunday was very windy and Snedeker played a superb front 9 of -4 that shot him 7 clear with just 9 holes to play

you could have a good score. He shot -3 for the first round, was four shots from the leader but it was a solid start. For the second round, Brandt took full advantage of the early calm weather and played a flawless bogey free round of -7. Including a tremendous Drive then a 5 iron to 6ft that set him up for an eagle on the par 5 6th hole. This two-round total of -10 placed him in 2nd position and just 1 shot from the lead going into Saturday. Saturdays third round proved to be quite difficult as the wind picked up to around 30km/h. Brandt played extremely well under these conditions just having one bogey. There were very few to break par that day and his -2 put him 3 shots clear going into the final round on Sunday. On both Saturday and Sunday, Brandt was paired with the same players in the leading group. They were two very young up and coming Australian professionals that hadn’t won a big event yet. I had a good feeling that his level of play and experience would exceed there’s and there wasn’t really anyone of note from further down on the leaderboard that was making an impact. Sunday was again very windy and Brandt played a superb front 9 of -4 that shot him 7 clear with just 9 holes to play. It was at this time I kind of felt there was no stopping him however there was a mishap on the 10th that HKGOLFER.COM

could have made things a lot more interesting. His tee shot found the fairway bunker leaving 190yds to the flag with a big crosswind left to right. He hit the sand slightly first out of the bunker and the wind slung the ball to the right into the bushes and lost. Now he has to re-drop in the bunker which becomes all important on the lie after the drop. It was obvious to me that this could be catastrophic and staring at a big number on this hole, which in turn could cut his lead in half. The ball fortunately doesn’t plug and he hits an awesome shot on the green to 30ft. He then proceeds to make the long putt for bogey which he couldn’t ask for a better outcome. At that time, I knew from his experience as an elite player he was going to play quite conservatively from there on out and would maintain his lead. Walking up the last hole with a 9-shot lead was surreal. Because he was so in control of his game and built up such a large lead there was no nervous energy that usually transpires towards the end of a big golf tournament. We had a fun walk up the last fairway. He reminded to me that is regular caddy who had been with him for so long would be bummed with taking the week off and I appreciated once again them giving me this opportunity. I mentioned to Brandt to finish this tournament off and get up and down out of the bunker for par. He played a great bunker shot to around 8ft and like many other times throughout the week rolled the putt in from close range. It was an awesome finish to a great week in Fiji. What impressed me the most about Brandt’s game was his ability to hit the ball out of the middle of the clubface. Only once did he not hit with perfect contact for the entire week. His demeanor on the golf course was also impressive, always positive and was quickly to move on from an errant shot. His ability to control the distance with his wedge shots and short putting was also first class. I guess this is the reason he is ranked number 23 in the world and won many big events previously. It was an experience I will never forgot and hope to endure something similar again. HK GOLFER・JAN 2017


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©2017 Dr Milton Wayne




1. (& 22A) Olympic Golf Gold medalist

2. See 26A

3. (& 24A) World #1, runner up in USPGA

4. See 19D

8. See 18D

5. See 7D

9. (& 17D) First Japanese WGC winner

6. Hosted the USPGA

12. Tough US Open venue 14. (& 21D) Won Tour Championship and FedEx Cup

7. (& 5D) Runner-up in perhaps the finest day in Open history

15. See 28A

10. (& 23D) Collapse on 12th cost him a Masters repeat

16. (& 18A) Classy win in the US Open

11. (27A) 2016 host of the Open Championship (pictured)

18. See 16A 20. Ryder Cup hosts 2016 22. See 1A 24. See 3A 25. See 28A 26. (& 2D) Home of the Masters 27. See 11D 28. (& 25A, 15A) Finally captained a winning Ryder Cup team



13. Danny, the surprise English winner of the Masters 14. Olympics host city, informally 17. See 9A 18. (& 8A) Got his breakthrough Major in USPGA 19. (& 4D) Record breaking Open champ 21. See 14A 23. See 10D


WIN A SIGNED LEE WYBRANSKI POSTER! To enter, complete the crossword and send a scan or photo of the completed grid to, with “January Crossword” as the subject. Remember to include your name, address and contact number. Entries close on 15 January 2017. ONE LUCKY WINNER WILL BE DRAWN FROM THE CORRECT ENTRIES. Congratulations to Robin Hammond of Pokfulam who won the November crossword. NOVEMBER ANSWERS





There is a big launch in a few days in Florence, in Italy with a new treatment on gold (called “Frosted Gold”), which is going to be huge... I showed pictures to women at a dinner with 20 VIP’s in Hong Kong a few days ago, and I showed them pictures and the video of the watch that’s going to be launched and they were blown away. I think we’re on to something that’s going to make a real, real statement. I’ve been working for the brand for 22 years. I’ve never been so excited, actually, to launch a women’s watch. It’s not a new design, but it’s a special treatment on gold that basically makes the watch sparkle without a single diamond on it. That’s going to be sick. CM: Yes, and then you’re going to find men buying women’s watches… FHB: You know what? Potentially, because there are men who are looking at this and saying, “I want one.” We are not expecting that, but the watch is really “wow”, and that’s going to help us even bring in more women to the brand. GOLF SPONSORSHIP CM: Getting back to golf, I interviewed Stephen Urquhart (of Omega) and we discussed golf sponsorship. He was at AP of course. Did you work with him? FHB: Sure, yes. I started with AP in 1994, and he left in 1998. CM: Obviously he’s a big golfer as well and when I was speaking to him we discussed potentially sponsoring in Hong Kong or tournaments in China. It’s a lot of money but is that something you’ve considered? FHB: We’ve been offered several deals. We’ve been of fered the Hong Kong Open for, several times actually. We’ve been offered tournaments also from the PGA Tour in the US. It’s a huge investment, as you say. Not so much Hong Kong, but in the US. It’s a seven to eightmillion-dollar ticket no matter what, which is expensive for a brand like ours. Hong Kong is a different story, because also it’s a matter of where does the tournament fit in the season? How many of our own ambassadors will play the tournament? Actually, I’ve got again the offer on my desk. Not to be as a lead sponsor, because UBS has signed again now. They would want us as a second level sponsor. I’m not closing the door, but it would really depend on how many of our ambassadors we could secure to play the tournament, because if we don’t have any of our guys it doesn’t make much sense. CM: It’s a shame. It’s a perfect market I think. FHB: It’s a great market… in theory. HKGOLFER.COM



THE FUTURE CM: So, where do you see Audemars Piguet going forward? You’ve already mentioned keeping production at c.40,000 pieces per annum. What else do you see is going to be key for you over the next, say five years? FHB: We are living in a moment, right now, where the whole industry is shaking somehow, and I do believe we’re going to see some huge changes. Some brands will suffer, some retailers will suffer as well. We’re going to see a shrinkage overall, because we need to go back to basics. We watched a video yesterday [at the launch], with this notion of emotional luxury, and who knows? We are working on something that could actually be a complete game changer. Not only for the Audemars Piguet, but for the whole industry. I cannot tell you more, but the thing I can tell you is every time we as human beings are exposed to something which is difficult we get creative. In good times, we have a tendency to fall asleep a little bit, okay? To relax. That’s normal. When things get tougher, we have to wake up and find new ways, and the creativity becomes even stronger when we are somehow pushed to our limit. That’s where we are now, and I think we’re onto something that I say, that could be a game changer. Not just for AP, for the watch industry. CM: Any timing on that? If I publish this story next month will I look like an idiot, because 78


you’ve already launched? [laughs] FHB: No. [laughs] Ideally yesterday, but it’s going to take time. We’re not talking about years. We’re talking about one year maybe, at the most. CM: Can’t wait! You seem very excited about the future for AP. What about your future. Would you ever leave AP? FHB: I have to say I’ve not been regularly chased, headhunted since I took over, but I know why. I know exactly why. First of all, because people know that I am very happy where I am. I’ve got a great team, Audemars Piguet takes good care of me. I’ve said many times in many interviews that the day I leave AP I leave the watch world. I’ve been with Audemars Piguet for 22 years. I’m not saying no, that nothing could happen, because you never know in life, but… Also, I’m not a politician at all, and in these big roles you have to go through politics. I want decisions to be taken fast, and that would be an issue I know, in many places. I used to be hunted when I was in the US, by luxury companies, and I went far twice, just to test the water. And at the end even the headhunting company told me that they couldn’t put me in a box. You cannot put me in a box, and that was bothering them, because I don’t have a single diploma. I didn’t graduate at anything, but I can deliver success. CM: The actual brand itself, how often do suitors come after the company? FHB: Many times, but for the last seven, eight years less so, because we’ve declared our will of independence so many times. And yet, every time we hear stories: “Audemars Piguet being taken over…”. So, the last time that I heard the rumour, it was a year and a half ago: Someone said “Apparently Richemont is on the verge to buy Audemars Piguet!”, and I said [whispers] “No, no. You don’t understand? We are buying Cartier.” And they say, “What?!”. And I go “Yeah, we are buying Cartier,” because it kicks off another rumor. You like that one?! [laughs] Never a dull moment and all too quickly, it’s time to wrap up. As I get ready to head to the airport, smiling, I check my energy levels and sure enough, the “anti-dementor” has delivered again! Let’s hope we see him in Hong Kong soon, ideally presenting the winner’s trophy at Fanling - to an AP ambassador! HKGOLFER.COM