Quality is key for S'pore Open
Feizal, Muru agree that January event cannot accommodate full-time teaching pros
All's well that ends well.
And amicable was the tone when the Lagardere Sports (formerly World Sport Group) and the Singapore Profesional Golfers' Association (SPGA) settled their dispute over the selection criteria for the Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation Singapore Open in January.
In e-mail exchanges a month ago, Lagardere Sports vice-president (golf) Patrick Feizal insisted that the SPGA Order of Merit would be one of the criteria - among the top 750 in the world rankings and performances on the Asian Tour, Asian Development Tour, Japan Tour, One Asia Tour and the PGA Tour China Series - for the selection of the six Singapore professionals for the US$1 million ($1.4m) Singapore Open.
SPGA president M. Murugiah stuck by his decision that the SPGA Order of Merit be the sole criterion for the selection.
That brought a stand-off.
And, in a fruitful meeting last Monday, both parties were on the same page when it came to the quality of the selected players.
Feizal and Murugiah agreed that the players must be of some calibre in a competition at Sentosa's Serapong course, where world No. 1 Jordan Spieth and some top-ranked players would be competing.
Feizal's understanding was that the Order of Merit (based on eight SPGA tournaments) could throw up a full-time teaching pro or a spent senior to be among the six players.
But Murugiah assured him that the six would be serious players, and the focus would be on up-and-coming youngsters with talent.
That being the template, a sympathetic Feizal also agreed that, for the 2016 competition, he would concede to the SPGA stand that the Order of Merit be the sole criterion.
But, for subsequent years, his original criteria of points accumulated in the regional competitions (including the SPGA events) and world ranking points would prevail.
Murugiah saw logic and sense in Feizal's stand, for he believes that the national Open had earned the tag of "Asia's Major" and standards cannot be compromised with sentiment.
That belief saw credence yesterday - on the first day of the US$750,000 World Classic Championship at Laguna National - where at least three local full-time teaching professionals struggled to raise their game because of a lack of playing time.
Justin Han, who teaches at Seletar Country Club, shot a disastrous 18-over 89 on the tough World Classic course to be ahead of Taiwanese Lu Wen-teh, who retired in a field of 144 players.
Poh Eng Wah, a former World Cup player but now past 50 and teaching at Toa Payoh Driving Range, shot 83 to be in 137th position.
And Chang Ren Chiat, an instructor at Orchid Country Club, shot 82 to occupy the 134th slot while four players have the joint-lead on two-under 69.