Imagine the likes of Sir Viv Richards, Brian Lara and Wasim Akram in full flow in Karachi next month. No, this trio of cricketing mega stars won’t be using a bat or ball to thrill millions of their fans. If things go according to plan, they would be exhibiting their golfing mettle at the Karachi Golf Club. And that’s not the end of the story.
The cricketers along with a host of other celebrities would only be putting up a sideshow ahead of what would be one of the biggest sporting events in Pakistan’s history – the UMA-CNS Open Asian Tour Tournament at the prestigious KGC.
Pencilled in from October 11-14, the US$300,000 UMA-CNS Open featuring golfing stars from around the world will be the climax of a full-fledged golfing ‘festival’ that will begin with a Rs5 million ‘local championship’ at the KGC later this month.
When it was announced in April this year that the Asian Tour will return to Pakistan for the first time in 11 years, the news was greeted with a lot of enthusiasm. During the last few months, much has happened and now the KGC is ready to host the UMA-CNS Open Golf Championship – a full-fledged Asian Tour tournament featuring professionals from all over the world.
The event will mark the return of the Asian Tour to Pakistan for the first time in 11 years.
The initiative to put Pakistan back on the international golfing map was taken by the Karachi Golf Club, the premier golf club of Pakistan, with the complete support of the Pakistan Navy.
With the Chief of Naval Staff giving his complete backing, KGC was able to convince the Asian Tour to include the CNS Open on their calendar.
One big stumbling block was to raise ample funds for the successful hosting of the tournament. According to an estimate, the organisers of the two events – the local UMA-CNS Open and the Asian Tour tournament – will need to raise a whopping Rs110 million to host the events as well as the various activities surrounding them.
That’s where United Marine Agencies came in.
UMA, with Sohail Shams as its CEO, has been one of the premier sponsors of golf in Pakistan. They have been sponsoring the CNS Open as title sponsors for the last nine years.
Despite the fact that the title sponsorship of the CNS Open Asian Tour event came with a hefty price tag, Sohail Shams was keen to sponsor the event.
“It is our duty to our beloved country,” says Sohail Shams, an avid golfer himself. “As an Asian Tour event, the UMA-CNS Open will showcase our naya and piyara Pakistan in a positive light. That’s why we were keen to provide whatever assistance that was required from us,” he told ‘The News on Sunday’.
UMA, one of Pakistan’s top five shipping agencies, provides shipping, cargo and marine-related services in the country as well as the region. The company has always been deeply involved in sports. It was the main sponsor of the 49th CISM World Military Sailing Championship and a major contributor for the infrastructural enhancements at the Abdul Sattar Edhi Hockey Stadium, to name a few.
“It gives us great honour and pleasure to be the title sponsor of the CNS Open Golf Championship. We aim to sensitise the society, especially the business community, about the benefits of sports and we are thrilled to be able to do it via one of Pakistan’s most important golf tournaments,” commented Sohail Shams.
He also pointed out that the 2018 UMA-CNS Open Asian Tour event comes at a perfect time.
“We complete a decade of our association with the CNS Open this year and what better way to celebrate it by giving Pakistan an Asian Tour tournament,” he said.
Asian Tour Chief Executive Officer Josh Burack said: “On behalf of the Asian Tour, I’d like to thank Mr Shams and the UMA for their support and commitment to the UMA CNS Open Golf Championship. Their title sponsorship is a very positive step towards the development of golf in Pakistan, as well as the region.”
Over the last few months, Asian Tour experts have visited KGC on a few occasions to inspect the venue and to assuage any security concerns. Late last month, a three-member Asian Tour team that visited KGC gave the thumbs up to the course as well as the arrangements being made for the tournament.
There are plans to have a celebrity Pro-Am match before the main tournament featuring star cricketers from Pakistan and abroad. There will be a grand stand area and VIP area to enable proper viewing of the event.
The Pro-Am match scheduled for October 10 will be the occasion for which the organisers are trying to line celebrities and star cricketers like Richards, Akram and Lara.
Pakistan first became part of the Asian scene in 1989 when the Pakistan Open became part of the old Asian circuit. That event was won by Filipino star Frankie Minoza. Pakistan have produced only one Asian Tour winner in the past following Taimur Hussain’s success at the 1998 Myanmar Open.
The Pakistan Open was also a part of the Asian Tour in 2006 and 2007. The tournament was held at the Karachi Golf Club on both occasions and attracted several leading pros from the region as a part of a three-year deal. However, security concerns forced the cancellation of the 2008 edition.
England’s Chris Rodgers won the inaugural event ahead of India’s Jeev Milkha Singh and Amandeep Johl. In 2007 Malaysia’s Airil Rizman claimed his maiden Asian Tour title with a two-stroke triumph over Scott Hend of Australia.
With its entry into Asia’s premier golf circuit this year, the US$300,000 event will receive Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points providing Pakistani professionals a chance to earn valuable international ranking points.