“We will definitely build momentum for growth starting from this year, which will be the largest season ever.”
Koo Ja-cheol (68), chairman of Yesco Holdings, who has been passionately active as the head of the Korea Professional Golf Association (KPGA) since 2020, said this year, the last year of his tenure, was the ‘most important year in KPGA history’. As the 18th president of KPGA, at a recent press conference, he announced his intention to reappoint, saying, “I will play a role for the development of the association once again when the opportunity arises.”
On the 30th of last month, Chairman Koo met with Sports Seoul at the Yesco building in Seongdong-gu, Seoul and looked back on the past three years with KPGA and spoke with confidence and enthusiasm about future plans.
During the Corona 19 pandemic, Chairman Koo created a new tournament with his own money, and thanks to direct search for sponsors, the number of tournaments and total prize money have increased every year, and it has continued to grow externally. This year, 25 competitions, the largest ever, will be held with a total prize pool of 25 billion won.
◇KPGA, the successful signing of the broadcasting rights contract is the most rewarding.. Contract value of about 30 billion won over 5 years +α
Chairman Koo cited the broadcasting rights contract recently signed with the Innocean-SBS Medianet consortium as the most rewarding thing over the past three years. “The contract value is 6 billion won + α per year, and about 30 billion won + α over 5 years, considering various added values such as broadcasting rights fees, new competition attraction provisions, relay video resale revenue distribution, and related content business. In particular, I was really grateful for the assignment of a KPGA-specialized channel.”
After taking office, he created various types of fresh contents, such as the ‘Arm Pro Open’, a professional/amateur golf tournament, the ‘Professional Golf Club League’, and the ‘Timefolio Asset Management Winners Match Play’, in which KPGA players and elementary school students team up to play. It is evaluated that the value of KPGA has increased through this contract for broadcasting rights by drawing attention from golf fans and increasing popularity.
In addition, in 2021, he founded ‘Honors K’, a counselor-type group that aims to grow with KPGA by utilizing golf, rather than relying on sponsorship from a specific company. Honors K has acted as a title sponsor for a total of 7 tournaments organized by KPGA so far, and has played the role of a ‘long-legged man’ by providing great help to KPGA’s chronic deficit.
◇External Expansion → Solid internal stability
What is the reason why Chairman Koo has been focusing on external expansion so far? He said he was a fan of KPGA even before taking office as president of KPGA. He thought about what to do for the players and came to the conclusion that he had to expand his appearance.” “If the number of competitions increases, the number of prize money players will take will increase, and the frequency of exposure to media such as broadcasting will also increase. In order for KPGA players to be properly treated as professional players in Korea, the number of tournaments and total prize money had to be increased.”
In the first half of 2020, his first year in office, the tournament could not be held properly due to the direct hit of Corona 19. If you calculate that each tournament is worth about 2 billion won, the total value is a whopping 50 billion won. The KPGA Champions Tour, a senior tournament, also proved its value as a single tour by making eight tournaments and growing in quantity and quality as well as the Korean Tour.
However, despite such external growth, the schedule of the Korean Tour, which represents the KPGA, is delayed compared to the US or Japan, making it difficult for players to adjust their condition according to the schedule, and it is true that the venue environment and player treatment are lacking compared to overseas tours.
In response to this point, Chairman Koo said, “Until now, the KPGA had nothing to offer, so the environment itself was poor. Since it was difficult to recruit a title sponsor, it was even more difficult to confirm the venue and prize money for the tournament,” he said. Next year, we will try to notify you faster than this year.”
He continued, “It’s because the tour has been operated in the OEM way, but now we have to have a PB method that sells our own brands and products. It will be difficult to change overnight, but we will cooperate with the title sponsor and the golf course that hosts the tournament.”
The reason why he announced his intention to reappointment at a recent press conference is because of his desire to bear fruit through qualitatively substantial efforts so far, which had focused on quantitative growth. Chairman Koo said, “Now, I want to develop not only the growth of the tour, but also content centered on KPGA members, our greatest asset. If an opportunity arises, such as strengthening member welfare, developing lesson programs, nurturing youth, and expanding selections for pros and tour pros, I would like to work hard to strengthen myself.”
In addition, regarding the reappointment, “In fact, rather than ‘I have a will to reappointment’ or ‘I want to do it again’, it seems that an atmosphere has formed around me that hopes for my reappointment.” And the support from golf fans was great (laughs). If the intentions of the inside and outside want to continue their term, I think we have to live up to that expectation,” he explained.
◇ Continued Expansion of Male Youth Fostering Plans for ‘Fighting Cotyledons’
The KPGA is expanding its scope to include the Korean Tour, the second division, the Srixon Tour, and the senior tournament, the Champions Tour. It is in contrast to the Korean Women’s Professional Golf Association (KLPGA), which has a thick youth player base with world-class skills. Chairman Koo said, “Since only 10 to 15 competitions have been held over the past 10 years, parents must have thought, ‘Why are we doing that?’ However, if the Korean Tour continues to hold 25 tournaments every year as it is now and the size of the prize money increases, the situation will change. If you become a pro, you have to show that you can achieve what is called a ‘status rise’ or ‘advancement of fame’.”
To nurture youth, KPGA has been holding the KPGA Junior Championship since 2020, including Time Polio Asset Management Winners Match Play, in which male juniors from middle and high school students compete. Using Honors K, the ‘Honors K Charity Match’, in which aspiring golfers belonging to the Choi Kyung-ju Foundation and KPGA Korean Tour players round together, is also newly established to improve the management skills of junior players and provide scholarships.
Furthermore, “The project to expand the youth base through sports clubs is also in full swing. After organizing youth sports clubs using junior golf equipment suitable for each stage of growth, we plan to hold national junior competitions and further hold regular league matches between clubs.” added.
◇The Korean Tour will serve as a bridgehead to the world stage
. Chairman Koo made it clear, “It serves as a ‘bridgehead’ for our players to advance to the larger world stage.” To this end, KPGA is about to sign MOUs with the US Professional Golf (PGA) Tour, the center of the world golf world, and the DP World Tour in Europe. 메이저놀이터
Regarding the concern that ‘the status of the domestic tour will decline if we raise our players and advance to overseas tours’, he said, “I don’t think so. Just looking at Kim Joo-hyung, who successfully landed on the PGA Tour last year, the size of the contract with the sponsor was a hot topic. I think it will motivate the players if this part and their income are known,” he said. I think this is the point we should be aiming for,” he said, giving strength to his voice.
It was said that the popularity of the KPGA will only revive when there are many star players like Lim Seong-jae and Kim Joo-hyung who go abroad through the Korean Tour stage. Through MOUs with the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, more players active in Korea are trying to find a route to advance overseas and strengthen the route through which they can enter the PGA Tour through the Korean Tour. In the future, the global tour system will be reorganized and the status of KPGA will change after the MOU is signed, and KPGA is also planning a new global business accordingly.
Regretful of the reality that big star players such as Tiger Woods, the ‘Emperor of Golf’ in the US, and Ryo Ishikawa in Japan are not on the domestic tour, he said, “I had a star incubation business in mind, but I think fair competition is more important. Like nurturing idols, KPGA can do that, but when looking at the overall market, it seemed that there would be more harm than good, so I couldn’t put it into action.” . Looking at the female fans who are enthusiastic about ‘Mr. Trot’, we also have a lot of potential.”
Instead, he said that professional teams in Korea are making stars for their players. Aren’t both skills and personality excellent?”