Luke Elvy: Aussies Feast on Asian Delights

Watching the wonderful performance by the Australian contingent in Hong Kong over the weekend, confirmed to me that Asia will be the main pathway for our future stars. Not America, nor Europe… Asia.

You could argue it already is, but given our best players still head to the U.S. and Europe first, it hasn’t happened quite yet. Although, there are a number of good reasons why our young guns are heading through Asia first.

Scott Hend Six-time Asian Tour winner Scott Hend (Credit: Anthony Powter)

Growing prize purses plus a number of co-sanctioned European Tour events is a major reason. The fact US Q-School only guarantees Tour status is another.

Throw in the ease of travel, a good way to build confidence and the growing number of events, it may very well be the only place our best play in the long-term. However, that’s still a generation away.

Former PGA Tour player Scott Hend has blitzed it in the region in the past few years. His big win at the Hong Kong Open on the weekend was his sixth Asian Tour title, and also earned him a two-year exemption in Europe.

It’s presented a conundrum for the former PGA Tour member, he lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida and his goal has been to work his way back onto the PGA Tour. He is scheduled to head to Q-School this year, but now with status on the world’s second biggest tour confirmed, it appears more long-haul flights are ahead for Hend.

It’s a nice problem to have, especially as he’s now in his 40s. But, take a look at recent trends from our star players in their early 20s and it’s alarming how Asia is their new breeding ground.

Outside of Ollie Goss who opened doors in the States by virtue of his US Amateur result, almost every other talented youngster has headed to Asia to ‘make it’. You could argue Jack Wilson is in Europe, but after this year he’ll probably use the APAC region as his base.

Cameron Smith, Jake Higginbottom, Nathan Holman and Matt Stieger are Asian Tour regulars. They all believe they have what it takes to be future world-beaters, but to get going Asia is the answer. Many others have followed Brendan Jones up to Japan.

The new China Tour, is another promising pathway for our lot, especially as the PGA Tour is offering up cards to the top 5 on the Order of Merit. And OneAsia, while not what it originally set out to be, gives Australian’s a few more events playing for US$1 million each year.

Now that Asia is the new frontier for Australian golf, wouldn’t it be nice if there is one central tour that boosts their hopes of getting to where they really want to get to…. the top. Surely it isn’t too far away now.

I’m off to visit South Africa’s finest golf regions this week, but want to wish all those playing in the Perth International the best. This is the first of four big chances our local talent has of changing their fortunes each Australian summer. A strong field has assembled.

Meanwhile, tomorrow’s stars will be on display at Royal Melbourne for the Asia Pacific Amateur. This is the event that offers up an invite to The Masters to the winner. Whoever wins around Australia’s best course will get a good insight to Augusta National.