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Sahara to sponsor Indian Tour

By Our Sports Reporter

NEW DELHI, AUG. 20. After foraying into cricket and hockey sponsorships, Sahara India has now acquired the rights of the Indian PGA Golf Tour for a period of three years.

The golf circuit will be known as Amby Valley PGAI Tour, after Sahara's lifestyle city located between Mumbai and Pune near Lonavala.

The 2004-05 season, which tees off with the Hyundai Open in Chennai early this September, will offer a minimum of 20 tournaments with a guaranteed sum of Rs. 3.05 crores as prize money.

The prize money is expected to have a gradual increase over the next five seasons with Rs. 3.40 crores estimated for the second year and Rs. 3.70 crores for the third year.

The Tour manager, Tiger Sports Marketing (TSM), is planning a dream season five years from now with prize money of Rs. 4.50 crores.

Though all this looks rosy, Sahara's entry into the domestic golf sponsorship itself had its roots in an acrimonious 2003-04 season, which failed to achieve its prize money target by around 40 lakhs. The disgruntled players responded by often skipping the customary pro-am tournaments — the flashpoint came at the Hero Chandigarh Open in April — which resulted in Hero Honda pulling out of the Tour sponsorship for the coming season.

Difficult task

With the 2003-04 season failing to cross even Rs. 2 crores, it will be a difficult task to reach the promised Rs. 3.05 crores in the coming season. The Tour sponsor, the Professional Golfers' Association of India (PGAI) and TSM, however, are optimistic about the entire scenario.

Already the golfing season has been delayed by over a month as PGAI and TSM deliberated deep into all the aspects that go with the conduct of the sport, especially after the bitter experience of the last season.

With Sahara into the picture, two new golfing locations have been added to the Tour. Now, Sri Lanka has joined the Indian Tour, besides Nepal and Bangladesh, as the third foreign destinations.

The Amby Valley Golf Club, an 18-hole floodlit championship course in Lonavala, will be the newest venue on the Tour.

This year, in addition to players from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal, seven golfers from Pakistan have also made it to the PGAI Tour through the qualifying school.

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