PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: The impoverished nation of Cambodia will host its first international golf tournament at a course near the famed Angkor temples, the Asian Tour announced Monday.
The inaugural US$300,000 (217,000) Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open will be played at the newly opened Phokeethra Country Club, which is also a main tournament sponsor. The event, slated to run from Nov. 29 to Dec. 2 in the northwestern province of Siem Reap, is likely to draw many of Asia’s top golfers, organizers said.
Asian Tour Executive Chairman Kyi Hla Han said the tournament, which is one of seven new events on the schedule this season, proved that the game was thriving in the region.
"The game continues to prosper in Asia and with a new initiative in Cambodia, our next plan of action will be to help new golfing nations to develop the game," Han said.
"One of the best ways to attract new golfers is to expose them to international-class competitions and I believe the Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open will provide a launch pad for exciting talents to emerge from Cambodia," he said.
Cambodian Tourism Minister Thong Khon, present at Monday’s ceremony in Siem Reap announcing the tournament, said it would boost tourism.
"When we have a golf tournament like this, we can show the world and all the tourists that we have something new for them at the Angkor Wat site," he said. "Before, if golfers wanted to visit Angkor Wat, they were hesitant to come, but now they are happy to come to see the temples because they can see the temples and can play golf too."
Touted as the only international-standard course in Cambodia, Phokeethra is part of a campaign by the Cambodia government to boost its tourist revenues. The 18-hole, 72-par course is 23 kilometers (14 miles) outside Siem Reap town.
Cambodia now has three golf courses, including two near Phnom Penh, the capital. A fourth, also in Siem Reap, is under construction.
Tourism is a major foreign currency earner for cash-strapped Cambodia. There were 1.4 million foreign arrivals last year, with the largest number of visitors from South Korea, Japan and the United States. More than half of the tourists visited the Angkor temples.
Cambodia is one of the poorest in Asia, which is in part a legacy of the years when the communist Khmer Rouge ruled the country in the late 1970s, imposing radical communist policies that led to the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodian through execution, malnutrition, medical neglect and overwork.