In what can be described as a landmark moment for Indian golf, the Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI), the official sanctioning body for men’s professional golf in India, has been approved for inclusion in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) system.
At its recent meeting during the 147th Open Championship, the Governing Board of the OWGR approved the inclusion of the PGTI into the OWGR system.
PGTI’s elevation to OWGR status means that all its events will carry world ranking points from the 2019 season onward. This moves PGTI into the elite list of tours that are eligible for world ranking points. The list currently includes 20 established tours from across the globe such as the PGA Tour, European Tour, Japan Golf Tour, Asian Tour, PGA Tour Australasia and Sunshine Tour, to name a few.
The PGTI will be introduced to the OWGR at a minimum level of 5 first place points for their tournaments that are played over 72 holes.
Mr. Uttam Singh Mundy, CEO, PGTI, said, “The inclusion of PGTI in the OWGR system is a game-changer for Indian golf. We see it as the international golfing fraternity’s recognition of PGTI’s sustained growth since its inception 12 years ago and its emergence as the premier tour of the South Asian region. The several accomplishments of our professionals on the global stage have been a key factor in raising India’s stature to a major power-centre of Asian golf that has in turn drawn the attention of international bodies such as the OWGR.
“The PGTI, under the astute leadership of its President, Mr. Gautam Thapar, had made focused efforts towards aligning itself with the OWGR system over the last few years which included the all-important decision of making the PGTI an ‘Open Tour’ from the 2018 season onward. Our persistence towards the cause has borne fruit as the decision to transform into an ‘Open Tour’ has paved the way for approval of world ranking points for the tour.
“The tour is now set to become more competitive than ever before as world ranking points will ensure better fields at all events and also attract quality international talent. We thank the Asian Tour for their support and guidance through the application process. The timing of the OWGR approval couldn’t have been better, as the Olympics, that also have a world ranking criteria for qualification, are not too far away in 2020.”
This major development is one of the most important milestones achieved by the PGTI in its 12-year long journey so far.
The PGTI came into existence in 2006 and staged 10 events in its inaugural 2006-07 season with a combined prize purse of Rs. 4.6 crore. Over the next decade, the PGTI embarked on a path of positive growth as it emerged as the biggest tour in South Asia. In 2017, the prize money on offer had risen to Rs. 10.5 crore and the average number of events had gone up to 20.
PGTI has expanded its geographical footprint with each passing year as tournaments have been staged across 17 States and one Union Territory in India as well as in neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal.
This year the PGTI is slated to co-sanction five international tournaments in India, two in partnership with the Asian Tour and three in conjunction with the Asian Development Tour.
The intense competition on the PGTI has contributed in churning out champions for India at the international level. A large number of Indian golfing stars such as Anirban Lahiri, Shubhankar Sharma, SSP Chawrasia, Gaganjeet Bhullar, Rahil Gangjee, Rashid Khan, Ajeetesh Sandhu, Mukesh Kumar, Chiragh Kumar, Digvijay Singh, Himmat Singh Rai, C Muniyappa, Chikkarangappa and Sujjan Singh, have honed their skills on the PGTI before going onto achieve international victories. All these names today have a combined total 37 international titles and 18 Major appearances and are members of most of the major tours across the world.
Anirban Lahiri and SSP Chawrasia went on to represent India at the 2016 Olympics while the former also appeared at two editions of the Presidents Cup. Lahiri became Asia No. 1 in 2015 whereas Shubhankar Sharma currently leads the money list in Asia.
Interestingly, Bangladesh’s top golfer Md Siddikur Rahman also came through the ranks of the PGTI before making it big on the Asian Tour thanks to his two wins.
In order to build on the gains achieved over the last 11 years, the PGTI announced it would become an ‘Open Tour’ from the 2018 season onward. This lifting of restriction on the number of foreign players on the tour, set the ball rolling for the final push required in the pursuit of OWGR status.
The move towards an ‘Open Tour’ resulted in an increased foreign participation at the PGTI’s 2018 Qualifying School. The 262 participants in the First Stage of Qualifying included golfers from South Africa, Bangladesh, Australia and South Korea, in what is seen as an encouraging trend for the future.