Affiliate in Focus: Myanmar
Myanmar, also known as Burma, has a flourishing golf culture that continues to grow alongside its strengthening economy. With 127 golf courses spread across Myanmar from Myitkyina in far north to the southernmost town of Kawthaung, golf has been played for more than 100 years in the country, among the longest in Asia.
Golf was first played in Myanmar by British Regiment officers, merchants and administrators that brought golf to country as a popular pastime from back home. When Myanmar gained independence from Britain in 1948, the golf courses remained and continued to be used. A military coup in 1962 largely closed off the country from the outside world until 1988, but recent government reforms coupled with an influx of investment has allowed new golf courses to be built with more expected in the future.
The Myanmar Golf Federation estimates there are around 50,000 club golfers in the country with a further 25,000 golfers that are not attached to clubs. The R&A has provided funding to Myanmar to support coaching programs for the national team and to develop the country’s coaching infrastructure. A Level 1 Rules School, the first level of The R&A’s three-tiered Rules Education programme, took place in Yangon (Rangoon) in 2012 with a second school taking place in March 2014 in Mandalay that welcomed 50 golf enthusiasts.
The country has turned out a number of successful professional golfers including Mya Aye, who became the first golfer from Myanmar to play in The Open Championship in 1980 at Muirfield. Zaw Moe won the Asian Tour’s Singapore Open in 1997 after twice winning the Burma Amateur Open in 1987 and 1988, and has played regularly on the Japan Golf Tour and the Asian Tour.
Myanmar’s most well-known golfer is Kyi Hla Han, who rose to prominence as a player in the 1980’s and is currently the Executive Chairman of the Asian Tour. He earned a number of professional victories including the Malaysian PGA on two occasions, the Thai PGA, the Johor Masters, the Rolex Masters and the Asian Tour’s Volvo China Open in 1999, before finishing at the top of the Asian Tour Order of Merit that same year. In 2006 he was appointed to his position at The Asian Tour and has overseen its rapid growth.
Myanmar’s capital city of Nay Pyi Daw hosted the 27th South East Asian (SEA) Games in December 2013 featuring over 5,000 participants from 11 different countries competing across 37 different sports. The Royal Myanmar Golf Club hosted the golf competition, with medals awarded in men’s and women’s divisions. The R&A provided £10,000 in funding to support the staging of the golf competition.
In the men's division, Myanmar’s four man team proved to be a successful combination with every player contributing good scores in each of the four rounds. The team from Thailand pulled well ahead of the field and Myanmar was able to hold off a strong charge from Malaysia to win the team silver medals. A strong performance from Ye Htet Aung boosted the team and the young player finished fourth overall in the competition.
On the women’s side, promising 18-year-old player Yin May Myo led the Myanmar team to silver medals after delivering a strong performance in one of her first international tournaments. Myo carded rounds of 72, 73, and 71 to finish at even-par and earn the individual silver medal. Myanmar finished third overall in the medal table for the golf competition, a successful effort for the host nation.
Golf continues to have a promising future in Myanmar, with a new 8,000 yard championship golf course in Mandalay with driving range facilities and a golf academy set to open in 2015. This year saw the re-launch of the Myanmar Golf Tour after a four-year hiatus due to lack of funding. The Tour has welcomed new sponsors and will allow amateur and professional men and women to compete on some of Myanmar’s best courses.