Selection dilemma for SPGA
Golf body decides on a 3-3 split in picking players for the Singapore Open
In golfing parlance, split the fairway is a welcome phrase.
Images of a good drive come to mind, with the ball landing in the middle of the fairway.
Split down the middle is another phrase, maybe not directly related to the game.
But it is where the Singapore Professional Golfers' Association (SPGA) is, following its nomination of six golfers for next month's US$1 million (S$1.4m) SMBC Singapore Open at Sentosa's Serapong course.
Some senior golfers registered with the SPGA have been vocal about placing a premium solely on the local Order of Merit for the selection process.
Others, mainly the younger players, want - in addition to the Orders of Merit of the Asian Tour and the SPGA - an emphasis on sporting promise, sufficient playing time and a long-term view of the players' future as yardsticks for selection.
Caught in the middle, or muddle, the SPGA went for what seems a compromise - a three-three split between the Asian Tour Order of Merit and the local Order.
But any move, even otherwise, is certain to upset some parties.
The SPGA chose Quincy Quek, Lam Chih Bing and Marc Kawasoe (the three top players on the SPGA Order of Merit), and Koh Dengshan, Mitchell Slorach and Johnson Poh by virtue of their rankings on the Asian Development Tour (ADT).
Incidentally, Quek makes it on both counts.
Singapore's No. 1 player Mardan Mamat qualifies on his top-65 ranking on the Asian Tour.
This means that Jonathan Woo, 26, a former Putra Cup champion who studied in the US and played in NCAA tounaments before turning pro last September, misses out.
Woo, a playing pro, ranks sixth on the local Order of Merit (just ahead of Koh), 89th (fifth among the local players) on the ADT Tour out of 184 money-winners, having turned out in 13 ADT tournaments this year.
His most recent event was in Thailand over the Christmas period when he made the cut.
So the question is: Does he deserve a spot in place of Kawasoe who has spent most of his time teaching?
Or even Lam, 40, once Singapore's No. 1 and a veteran pro of 17 years who for the last six months has been working full-time as an energy derivatives broker?
In fact, Lam had stated in Thursday's The Straits Times that he was ready to quit pro golf.
If that's the case, he should be magnanimous enough to offer his spot to a playing pro.
Is he thinking of one last fling in a star-studded field in an event in which he was once among the early leaders?
And is Kawasoe clinging to his divine right because he qualifies on SPGA's criterion?
No doubt, SPGA boss M Murugiah is in a bind.
Although he strongly believes that the local Order of Merit should have significance, against the backdrop of the Asian Tour rankings, he accepts the point that promising youngsters who play regularly in competitions should be considered.
But, left between a rock and a hard place, Murugiah takes a philosophical stance, stating that the fringe players among the six chosen also have a justification role.
"Playing for Singapore under the SPGA banner means they have a responsibility to our association," said Murugiah.
"They will be closely watched and, if they are unprepared and return inflated scores, they will come under critical scrutiny.
"And if they fail miserably, don't expect any sympathy from me.
"So they must make sure they take the national Open seriously."
Obviously, this issue caused a splitting headache for Murugiah. But he now rests easy, after placing the cards on the table for the nominees.
I wish Kawasoe and Lam well.