So, it’s official now: South African Thomas Aiken won’t be coming back to defend his Avantha Masters title, which he won at the Jaypee Greens Golf Course in NCR earlier this year; Gaganjeet Bhullar won’t get a chance to go one better than his runner-up finish to Aiken and win the biggest-ticket event ever held on Indian soil. And Jaypee Greens will have to be content with a solitary mention as the host of the tri-sanctioned, European-Asian-PGTI Tour event, which, realistically speaking, is unlikely to ever be held again.
There’s no villain of the piece here, least of all the Avantha Group. The event’s RoI over the four years of its existence, whether in terms of building brand equity or generating enough interest in the mainline media in India, has been suspect at the best of times. The top players on the European circuit—the ‘stars’, who add glitz and glamour to any event, attract fans and television viewership—have routinely given the event a miss because of, among other reasons, its scheduling (which puts it right after a lucrative swing in the Gulf and too close to two World Golf Championship events). Also, for a tournament of this stature, the galleries have been sparse, swelling to respectable numbers only for the final rounds— four Sundays in four years. The death knell, as is common knowledge, came with the recent vicissitudes of the rupee. Since the inaugural event in 2010, the total purse of the Avantha Masters went up from $2.1 million to $2.3 million—an increase of little over 10%. However, the depreciating value of the rupee in dollar terms and the fact that the prize money had to be raised meant that the sponsor had to augment the original amount significantly. And while associate sponsors pitch in on a number of fronts, the big event costs, which include course capitation fee and broadcast rights, also have to be borne by the sponsor, and these are at least as much as the prize money, if not more.
A statement released by the Avantha Group summed it up succinctly: “Having successfully hosted the prestigious Avantha Masters for four consecutive years, the Avantha Group has concluded that in order to attract top talent, both the timing of the event in the golf calendar along with a substantial prize-money increase will be required. Given the current economic conditions, the Avantha Group has concluded that this is