European-Asian Tour Alliance In Jeopardy

Shortly before the Christmas holiday, word began to circulate that Asian Tour boss Mike Kerr had left his position. No reason was given for his sudden and unexpected departure, and the tour has gone underground since the terse announcement, leaving many to speculate about its future existence.

Kerr advocated the burgeoning alliance with the European Tour, a vision created by new European Tour head man Keith Pelley. It would appear that Kerr’s advocacy of this vision cost him his job.


Various reports suggest that a small cabal of nervous journeyman pros is worried that this new alliance will cost them playing opportunities. As a result, they forced Kerr out and remade the board of directors. Among the casualties in the later move was former European Tour CEO Ken Schofield, one of the more astute businessmen in the global game.

European Tour veteran Thomas Bjørn, who serves as chairman of the European Tour tournament committee, summed it up succinctly when he observed that Pelley’s merger plan “is the only way forward.” He is correct in that assessment. Most if not all of the big money events on the Asian tour are co-sanctioned with another body. Two of those – the PGA Tour and the European Tour – don’t really need the Asian Tour to succeed on this continent. Doubters might google PGA Tour China and consider its ramifications. It is entirely possible that these tours could run events in this region on their own, effectively gutting the Asian Tour. The banishment of Kerr makes that outcome more likely than not.

Implicit in the concern about reduced playing opportunities is an admission that some of the players are not talented enough to play on a bigger stage. However, a glorious Presidents Cup last fall in South Korea showed that Asia’s top players can play with the best in the world. Apparently, not all aspire to that goal.

This development comes at a time when the global game is about to take an important step forward, rejoining the Olympic movement. Asia’s golf elite will have another opportunity to elevate the game across this vast continent. Meanwhile, a small group of Luddites will attempt to maintain the status quo. History will judge them harshly should they succeed.

Mike Kerr, in less than four short years, brought the Asian Tour to the big stakes global golf poker table. He wasn’t dealt the best hand, but he played his cards as well as he could. With his departure, the Asian Tour could well be banished to the small stakes table in a different room, never to be invited back to the big game.

The Luddites, at the moment, are winning.


 

Lewine Mair will have more on this topic in the Jan. 11 issue of Global Golf Post.

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