By Art Stricklin, special to Golf.com
Making his first-ever trip to Colombia for this week’s Nationwide Tour Pacific Rubiales Bogota Open, PGA Tour International Affairs point man Ty Votaw said branding and security were the keys to this two-year event going forward.
The current Vice President of the International Golf Federation said having the event this week was critical to the ongoing development of South American golf, when it becomes a part of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.
"Only 14 of the top 500 players in the world rankings are from this area," Votaw said at a late Tuesday press conference. "We want to do better and if we do not, then this region will not have much (adequate) representation for the 2016 Olympics."
Votaw and Nationwide Tour President Bill Calfee said as a "business decision" the Nationwide Tour decided to drop previous stops in Australia and New Zealand to concentrate on branding in South America. Currently the tour stops in Panama, but plans call for 2-3 more South American events in the future. Votaw also discussed launching a South American developmental tour, which could lead to future Nationwide Tour opportunities.
The PGA Tour was very concerned about security when it was approached two years ago about bringing a Nationwide Tour event to one of the world’s most dangerous countries. But after a week-long, on-site security review, Tour officials said the Colombia national police surpassed every security milestone they set forward as a condition to play at Bogota Country Club.
"By coming here, I think we help combat some of the unfair negative stereotypes which existed here in the past," Votaw said.