Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Mercedes becomes driving force of ASEAN Tour

By Ossian Shine

SINGAPORE, March 4 (Reuters) - German automaker Mercedes-Benz has thrown its considerable financial muscle behind a fledgling regional golf tour aimed at developing talent in Southeast Asia.

Mercedes were on Tuesday unveiled as tour title sponsor of the ASEAN Golf Tour and, although neither the sponsor nor the tour would reveal the exact sum of sponsorship, an insider told Reuters it was a "seven-figure U.S. dollar deal".

The tour will feature 10 events in this its first full year, and they will be played in Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam.

"There is a possibility that we will add several more this year," chairman of the tour, AC Wong, told reporters at a news conference. "We are in the process of engaging Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Brunei. It is my hope that we will soon host a tournament in each one of the 10 ASEAN nations.

ASEAN -- the Association of Southeast Asian Nations -- is a geo-political and economic organisation of 10 nations: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The first event of the 2008 tour will take place in Malaysia from May 15-18.

The season-ending Tour Championship will be played in Bangkok from Nov. 27-30.

News of the tour's launch was welcomed by professionals across the region.

"This is a very significant development for golf in Asia and it will definitely make the golfing world sit up and take notice," Malaysia's top golfer Danny Chia said.

"The circuit is an ideal breeding ground for young players."

Only golfers resident in an ASEAN country will be eligible for the tour, Wong said, and there is no plan to offer places to golfers from outside the region.

"Our priority is to develop the talent in the region," he smiled.

(Editing by Martin Petty)


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