Korean golf chiefs are predicting next month’s Ballantine’s Championship will provide a massive boost for the sport in their country. The €2 million (US$2.9 million) showpiece will be the first European Tour event held in Korea and has already sparked huge interest in the golf-mad nation.
Rising Korean professionals are looking forward to an unprecedented chance to gain valuable experience on the big stage while fans are relishing the opportunity to see some of the world’s best players in action for the first time.
“The Ballantine’s Championship is an important opportunity for Korean players to experience a major event and it will be a vital stepping stone for their career development,” confirmed Park Ho Yun, general manager of the Korea Professional Golfers‘ Association.
The KPGA has been awarded 25 places in the 132-strong field, making it the first time in Korean golf history that home-grown players are being allowed to compete en masse alongside the game’s elite.
“Having the chance to participate in a major event in any sport, not just golf, makes a significant difference to players,” stressed Park.
“The number of Korean golfers who have experienced European Tour, PGA or Japan Golf Tour events so far is quite low. Having these 25 places in the tournament means KPGA members are being given a wonderful opportunity to enhance their skills and confidence.”
Ballantine’s is title sponsoring the event for a minimum of three years. This long-term commitment means that even those players who don‘t make the KPGA’s top 25 for the first tournament can target 2009 and beyond as they aim to gain a foothold on golf’s ultra-competitive ladder.
It will all add up to good news for Korean golf when the inaugural Ballantine’s Championship is staged on March 13-16 at Pinx Golf Club on the picturesque island of Jeju.
The KPGA expects the Ballantine’s Championship to give added impetus to the country’s healthy professional golf scene. The organisation has 4,513 professional golfers on its books – a total comprising 815 tour pros, 3,242 semi pros and 456 teaching pros.
It is also predicting a boost in young people taking up the sport. The Korean Junior Golfers‘ Association currently has 1,800 players – almost a third of them female.
Ballantine’s Scotch whisky enjoys a special status across Asia and is Korea’s favourite super-premium imported Scotch. Ballantine’s is the title sponsor of the Ballantine’s Championship, an official sponsor of the Barclay’s Scottish Open held every July at the exclusive Loch Lomond Golf Club, and was also a sponsor of the UBS Hong Kong Open in 2007.