Negeri Masters set to be richest event on ASEAN PGA Tour

Seremban, Negeri Sembilan; June 2: The Negeri Sembilan Masters Invitational will be part of the expanding ASEAN PGA TOUR in 2011, marking an exciting transition for one of Malaysia’s marquee professional tournament.

The prestigious tournament, which turns seven this year, will be played from July 7-10 at its traditional venue, the Seremban International Golf Club. It will offer its 144-player field a total prize purse of RM500,000 (US$165,000), making it the most lucrative tournament on the ASEAN PGA Tour.

For the second successive year, KL Metro Group is the main sponsor of the Negeri Sembilan Masters Invitational with Salcon Engineering Berhad as the co-sponsor. The championship is also supported by the Negeri Sembilan Tourism Action Council and Tourism Malaysia.

Tournament director and captain of the Seremban International Golf Club, Dato’ Haji Mohd Yaacob Mohd Kassim (left) pointed out that the partnership with the ASEAN PGA Tour was inked in an effort to ensure the continuous success of the annual championship, which has grown in stature and prize money since its humble introduction in 2005.

“While we are proud of the championship’s continued success, which has firmly established itself as a tournament that all top professional want to play in, we want to further cement its position in the region,” said Mohd Yaacob.

“We felt it was appropriate that the championship became part of a strong recognised regional circuit that is professionally run to the highest standards. Therefore, we feel that the ASEAN PGA Tour was the perfect platform for our tournament to grow and continue to be one of the nation’s showpiece golf events,” he added, noting that invites will still be made available for players outside the region, including Australia.

Reigning champion S. Sivachandhran (right), who became the first Malaysian to win the event last year, will spearhead the 59-strong local challenge alongside Danny Chia, Nicholas Fung and Akmal Tarmizee Mohd Nazari.

The tournament is also guaranteed one of the strongest regional line-ups with the top 60 players on the ASEAN PGA Tour’s Order of Merit expected to participate including past champions Juvic Pagunsan of  The Philippines (2007) and Singaporean Lam Chih Bing (2009).

Twelve amateur players will also be invited as part of the tournament’s long-held practice of giving the younger set of  up-and-coming players a chance to compete at a higher level.

“We are grateful and excited to be part of the Negeri Sembilan Masters International 2011 and we hope that this will be a long and fruitful partnership,” said Patrick Feizal Joyce, vice-president – golf, World Sport Group, the official commercial partner for the ASEAN PGA Tour.

“Not only will this event be a focal point for local professionals but it will also witness a powerful and attractive lineup from South East Asia, who will not only be competing for the title and the rich prize purse but also aiming for a top-six finish in the Order of Merit which will earn them a place in November’s Barclays Singapore Open,” he added.

For the first time in the history of the championship, a one-hour highlight show will be produced to bolster the event’s regional media coverage via broadcast on ESPN Star Sports and Bloomberg Asia.

“We expect the highlights show to reach close to 450 million households across Asia, giving the championship as well as the state of Negeri Sembilan adequate television exposure in keeping with the founder (Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar Dato’ Seri Utama Haji Mohamed Haji Hassan)’s vision of promoting golf tourism to the state,” explained Joyce.

The 6303-metre, par-72 championship layout of the Seremban International Golf Club is set to offer a challenging test to the players with the course already undergoing preparation for the championship since early this year.

“The 17th tee-box has been moved back to add more distance. The players will face longer rough and narrower fairways as well as faster greens, which should run between 10 to 11.5 on the Stimpmeter during tournament week. Additionally, we’ve also improved the bunkers, which will definitely add more challenge,” said Mohd Yaacob.

The ASEAN PGA Tour, now in its fifth year, got underway earlier last month when Prom Meesawat of Thailand ended a confidence-sapping five-year title drought in emphatic fashion with a runaway nine-stroke victory in the Singha Pattaya Open.