Nine months and 14 days since Jeremiah Kim Leunkwang sealed a nine-stroke victory at the 2019 Players’ Championship, the Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) Tour is poised to resume September 23 with the RM180,000 PGM Glenmarie Championship and the concurrent RM30,000 PGM Ladies Championship.
It will be the first of four scheduled events in a wraparound tenth anniversary season for the domestic circuit, grounded since January because of a long-brewing sanctioning impasse with the Professional Golf Association (PGA) of Malaysia and the COVID-19 pandemic subsequently.
Despite announcing that the first three events were to be co-sanctioned with the Asian Development Tour, this will not be the case. With the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) extended until December 31 and border restrictions not being lifted, the events will likely be staged as “closed” championships with a drop in prize purse and no world ranking points on offer.
However, in announcing the schedule on August 19, PGM Tour chairman Tun Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid noted that the Tour “would not decline any foreign players who will like to participate in these events.” It will pave the way for several non-Malaysian professionals based in the country to compete and potentially make for an exciting competition.
The resumption will also feature many amateurs, including some national players, testing their prowess against the professionals due to the continued absence of state and national amateur tournaments (MGA, are you reading this?).
With the Tour having witnessed three amateur wins since its inception, it will be interesting to see if the current batch can emulate Daeng Abdul Rahman Abdul Aziz, Gavin Kyle Green, and Low Khai Jei in triumphing on the paid ranks.
Much will depend on what the local professionals bring to the table. Devoid of competition since the Bandar Malaysian Open in March, many have resorted to seeking full-time employment and dabbled in business and will probably turn up to these events rusty but hungry for game time.
Also interesting to note will be the PGM Tour’s approach towards health and safety protocols. For the record – unlike the PGA, European, and LPGA Tours, the Tour has not made any commitments towards testing its participants and creating a safe tournament bubble.
Ahmad Sarji has emphasised that it will be the host club’s (and not the Tour’s) responsibility to ensure that the standard operating procedures such as usage of face masks, body temperature screening, physical distancing, and self-declaration via MySejahtera) are adhered to. How this pans out when the Asian Development Tour co-sanctioned events begins remains to be seen.
The economic impact of the pandemic, however, will affect the long-term viability of the Tour. Asked about his plans for 2021, Ahmad Sarji was coy on what the future holds.
“The pandemic has affected many companies, and sponsorship is crucial for us. We have to accept the new normal; thus, we are willing to accept lower sponsorship. We cannot be expecting companies to contribute to the sums that they have in the past. If the money is forthcoming, we will have more events, including ADTs. If the money is not enough, we will have to skip those and concentrate on closed tournaments.”