Golf: Asian Tour in board shake-up amid Europe merger talks

The Asian Tour announced a major shake-up of its board of directors on Wednesday, hard on the heels of its CEO's resignation after deep divisions emerged over a proposed tie-up with Europe's golf body.

Former European Tour chief executive Ken Schofield was among those to lose his seat as four prominent Asian businessmen were named as non-playing directors of the region's main golf organisation.

In a statement sent to AFP, three player members were also removed and Asian Tour chairman Kyi Hla Han was named as "interim Tour Commissioner".

No reasons were given for the sweeping changes, which follow fierce debate over plans to merge the Asian and European Tours' business dealings and memberships and create a mega-tour straddling the two continents.

Some Asian pros have voiced concerns that they will lose opportunities to play and make a living as they are squeezed out of tournament spots by European rivals.

Of the four new non-playing directors, two are from companies - Yeangder and ICTSI - who hold title sponsorships for Asian Tour tournaments.

"The quartet are prominent businessmen and industry leaders in their respective countries, avid golfers and have the desire and vision to grow the Asian Tour," said the statement, which did not refer to the merger.

Schofield had been on the board since 2011. Also gone are long-standing director and Hong Kong-based Canadian businessman Rick Siemens, who was appointed in 2005, and Gautam Thapar, founder of India's Avanthar Group.

In comes Taiwan's Emmet Hsu, chairman of the Yeangder Group - sponsors of the Asian Tour's Tournament Players Championship which carries a prize purse of US$500,000 (S$705,100).

Joining him is Enrique K. Razon Jr who is chairman of Philippines container company ICTSI - the sponsor of this week's US$300,000 Philippines Open.

The other two new directors are Jimmy Masrin, president and CEO of Indonesian chemicals and mining firm PT Caturkarsa Megatunggal, and Jaturon Himathongkom, sports marketing director for Thai brewing giant Singha Corp.

Han's new duties as interim commissioner will include "enhancing the playing opportunities for its members", the statement said.

The board shake-up follows last week's announcement that Asian Tour chief executive Mike Kerr, a strong supporter of the merger, had resigned for undisclosed reasons.

Among the playing directors, only Chinese veteran Zhang Lianwei survives with Lam Chih-Bing of Singapore, Australia's Scott Barr and Thailand's Boonchu Ruangkit all out.

Zhang has been joined by senior Indian player and EurAsia Cup captain Jeev Milkha Singh, with two more playing directors set to be nominated by the tournament players committee.

Lam, one of the playing directors to leave the board, said earlier this month that he was in favour of the merger but was facing opposition from fellow players.

"Since the merger proposal I have been having a difficult time convincing players of the merits of the union," he told Singapore's New Paper.

"I feel that there are benefits from the merger, but some players still feel that it is not a good move. Because of this my golf has been suffering, so I felt I should step down and concentrate on my game."

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