Singapore Open will survive Barclays exit: local golf fraternity

Winner of last year's Barclays Singapore Open, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano from Spain. (Getty Images)Winner of last year's Barclays Singapore Open, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano from Spain. (Getty Images)

No Barclays, no problem.

That is the message the Singapore golf fraternity is keen to show, after British bank Barclays revealed on Monday that it will not renew its sponsorship of the Singapore Open when this year's event at the Sentosa Golf Club ends in November.

Barclays has backed the US$6 million (S$7.6 million) event dubbed as the "Asia's Major" since 2006. No reason was given for yesterday's announcement, but market conditions had already prompted the bank to not renew its sponsorship of the Scottish Open in 2011.

Other major local sport events such as the HSBC Women's Champions golf tournament and badminton's Li-Ning Singapore Open are also facing a fight to retain their title sponsors in the uncertain economy.

Local professional golfer Mardan Mamat remained upbeat despite the news.

"I don't think that it will be a problem for the Singapore Open to attract new sponsors," he told Yahoo! Singapore, pointing to the tournament's long history.

The Singapore Open was started in 1951 and attracted top players such as Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els to local shores after Barclays made the event Asia's richest national golf Open with its sponsorship.

While Mardan believed it could be hard for potential new sponsors "to sustain the US$6 million prize money" in the current economic climate, he said even a smaller purse offering will be good for golfers, especially local professionals like himself.

"Even US$3 million is still okay for local pros to play and earn some money," he said.

Singapore Golf Association president Bob Tan is also hopeful a new sponsor will come onboard in time for the tournament next year.

Speaking to Yahoo! Singapore on Tuesday, Tan said, "The tournament is already a well-established event, so what we need to do is to make sure this year's event is the best yet and to keep it on the radar screens of potential sponsors."

Local golf fans are also optimistic that with or without Barclays, the Singapore Open is here to stay.

Relationship manager Shaun Ang, 32, believed the tournament "has enough of a brand name" to attract other corporate brands.

"Maybe one of the local banks or telcos can do it since it will benefit them to advertise in such a major and prestigious event," said Ang, who has attended the last two Singapore Open.

Still, Ang suggested moving the tournament to another time to avoid the rainy season. The last two editions of the Open were delayed because of torrential downpour, which also affected crowd turnout.

But Tan said if fans want to see the top golfers strut their stuff in Singapore, they will have to make do with the rain.

He explained, "We follow the golfing calendar, so if we play during the time the weather is fine, then the top golfers might be playing in the European tours and might not come in. We just have to fit in."