By Patrick Johnston
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore professional and new board member Mardan Mamat believes the struggling Asian Tour can enjoy a brighter future with a stronger regional flavor following CEO Mike Kerr's surprise resignation last month.
Northern Irishman Kerr quit at a delicate time for the tour, who were deep in merger negotiations with the much larger European Tour despite concerns among some members over a lack of playing opportunities if the deal were to go ahead.
Last week, the Asian Tour said the talks would resume after the appointment of a new eight-man board, featuring four players and chaired by Indonesian businessman Jimmy Masrin.
Former chairman Kyi Hla Han was also named Interim Tour Commissioner.
Mardan, who along with India's Jeev Milkha Singh, China's Zhang Lian-wei and Thai Pariya Junhasavasdikul make up the playing board members, was pleased Asians were back in charge after Kerr's near four-year reign.
"I think we are positively thinking that we are back in the right shape," the 48-year-old told reporters on Tuesday ahead of this week's season-opening Singapore Open.
"People were saying the Asian Tour was not right but I think, in a positive way, we are trying to improve it as much as we can to make it better.
"We have very good board members now and it's a good thing we have all Asian faces on the board, so its looking very positive."
The Asian Tour once reigned supreme in the region but has been compromised in recent years by the emergence of the OneAsia circuit, while the European and U.S. PGA Tours have also expanded into their territory.
Kerr told Reuters in 2014 that he hoped the Asian Tour would offer more than $50 million in prize money by 2017 but this season's schedule, with the second half yet to be announced, stands at nine events worth $12.5 million.
All but one of those are co-sanctioned with the European and Japan Golf Tour, which helps boost earnings but also takes away playing opportunities for Asian Tour members and promotes the image of the circuit being a feeder for bigger rivals.
This week's Singapore Open features world number one Jordan Spieth in the field, adding gloss to a tournament once dubbed "Asia's Major" and boasting $6 million in prize money.
This year's edition returns after a three-year hiatus but with prize money of only $1 million after issues finding a suitable sponsor.
Singh was just relieved to have it back on the schedule with an added bonus of American double major winner Spieth taking part.
"Having world number one here, I think its fantastic and great for the Asian Tour," said Singh, winner of the tournament in 2008.
"Its good to see we are having more tournaments and its a good start to the year. I'm sure things are going to be good in the future.
"I think the changes are good and things are looking up for the better. We have a new board in place and the people on the board have a good thought process and direction for the Asian Tour, and we will see what comes from it over time."
(Editing by John O'Brien)