Karachi - Pakistan will host its first golf tournament with the Asian Tour in 11 years, organisers announced Tuesday, as international sports gradually returns to a terror-hit country where security has improved.
The Chief of Naval Staff Open Golf Championship is set to tee off from July 26 to 29 in Karachi, attracting a talented cast of Asian Tour stars to the event carrying US$300,000 (Rs34.59million) purse being provided by the tournament’s backers, the Pakistan Navy.
"Our talented members are excited to return to Pakistan," said Josh Burack, Asian Tour Chief Executive Officer, in a statement.
The four-day event was confirmed after Asian Tour officials gave the green light for it to take place following a recent security and course inspection. A field of more than 80 golfers is expected to include both Asian Tour and European Tour winners.
Pakistan hosted back-to-back Asian Tour events in 2006 and 2007, but the tournament has not been staged since due to security concerns, although the country did host an Asian Development Tour competition in Lahore last November.
“It’s going to be a major development not just for Pakistan golf but for Pakistan,” said KGC Captain Bilal Rafi Muneer. “An Asian Tour event in Pakistan will send the right signals to the world and will come at a good time and will serve as a follow up after the recent cricket matches here.”
Regular Asian Tour events have been absent in the country since 2008, when a tournament was cancelled over security concerns amid a wave of militant attacks across Pakistan.
All international sporting events were later suspended in Pakistan following an attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team bus in Lahore in March 2009.
But successful military operations in the country's northwest and urban centres have largely beaten back militant groups and dramatically improved security nationwide.
As a result, the country has hosted back-to-back Pakistan Super League cricket starting in 2017, in addition to a limited over series against Zimbabwe, the World XI and Sri Lanka.
Pakistan's Chief of Naval Staff Zafar Abbasi, whom the tournament is named after, lauded the return of the Asian Tour.
"This is great news for golf in Pakistan. We are thrilled to welcome the Asian Tour and its talented members to our beautiful country," said Abbasi.
Pakistan hosted its first Asian Tour event in 1989, which was won by Filipino star Frankie Minoza. The country's only Asian Tour winner remains Taimur Hussain who triumphed at an event in Myanmar in 1998.