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October 28, 2015

Ahmet Agaoglu

Ahmet Bolat

Keith Waters

Antalya, Turkey

MICHAEL GIBBONS: Good morning, everyone. Thanks for joining us. Welcome back to the magnificent Maxx Royal for the 2015 Turkish Airlines Open. The gentlemen on my left have some exciting news for you this morning, before Rory joins us on stage. But before we get going we are going to show you another quick video (video played).

I'll quickly introduce our top table, ladies and gentlemen. Start with the man in the middle, the driving force behind the current Turkish Airlines Open, the president of the Turkish Golf Federation, Mr. Ahmet Agaoglu. And I'm delighted to introduce another Ahmet, Ahmet Bolat, who is the Chief Investment and Technology Officer for Turkish Airlines. And finally on my left, Keith Waters, the Chief Operating Officer for The European Tour.

I'd like to invite Ahmet Agaoglu to start the proceedings.

AHMET AGAOGLU: Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. On behalf of the Turkish Golf Federation, I would like to welcome you all to this press conference. And today, we have a couple of exciting announcements to make.

And first of all, on behalf of my federation, we are very proud to announce that we reached to an agreement with The European Tour to extend our Final Series event for 2016, 2017 and 2018. The tournament will remain as a part of The Final Series.

During the past two years, the Maxx Royal has welcomed The European Tour's finest golfers to enjoy its fantastic facilities, as one the best hotel and players' lounge on the Tour. And looking forward, we are keen to continue to showcase Turkey's Gold Coast and all it has to offer. For this reason, the 2016 Turkish Airlines Open, 2016, 2017, 2018, three years in a row will be hosted by Carya Golf Club.

Finally, we are delighted to announce that Turkish Airlines will continue as our title sponsor of the Turkish Airlines Open for the next three years. And we thank them for their continued support and we are proud to be associated with such prestigious brands who are continually increasing their portfolio in golf, in both amateur and professional golf.

And many thanks to Maxx Royal. Their golf superintendent, golf club staff, hotel staff, management, for their incredible contribution for this prestigious event, and their contribution is very much appreciated. Thank you to Maxx Royal and his honourable COO, Mehmet Ersoy.

And of course we thank the Ministry of Sport, True Telecom, Avia, Turkish Rolex and all the sponsors and suppliers who have helped to grow this event. And ISM, of course, International National Sports management, and Mr. Andrew Chandler who has begin together with us during all the tournament and helped us and supported us by all means.

And volunteer who is have supported the tournament for the last three years. And finally, a special thanks to Mr. Rory McIlroy, for his support of this year's event and hope to see you in 2016 in Carya Golf Club in the Turkish Airlines Open Final Series event. And I thank you all for coming here and being together with us today. Thank you very much.

MICHAEL GIBBONS: Thank you, Ahmet. Mr. Bolat, do you have some opening comments for us?

AHMET BOLAT: Good morning. Welcome, everyone, to Turkish Airlines Open 2015. We are looking forward to a fantastic tournament this year and I would like to personally welcome the he stemmed golfers from around the world, in particular, Rory.

In addition, we would like to thank Ahmet Agaoglu, President of Turkish Golf Federation, and Keith Waters from The European Tour.

It also gives me great pleasure to announce that we will continue as headline sponsor of the Turkish Airlines Open for another three years, as our commitment to golf continues.

Turkish Airlines has been promoting professional and amateur golf around the globe since 2010. We believe that golf is a key vehicle for growing the Turkish Airlines brand around the world. And Turkish Airlines Open was established in 2013 and continues to grow rapidly, allowing amateurs to compete on some of the finest courses around the world. As you may not know, Turkish Airlines carried the golf participants baggages for free. This is the first time and this was the fifth year of our support for the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open on the Ladies European Tour.

As an airline with over 300 aircraft and flying more than 382 destinations, we are incredibly proud of our involvement in events such as this and we believe that Turkey has become one of the best places in the world for golf. This is demonstrated by the incredible talent we have here today.

Thank you so much for supporting this event, and we wish all those playing good luck. Thank you.

MICHAEL GIBBONS: Thank you, Ahmet.

And finally, Keith, if you would like to share opening comments.

KEITH WATERS: Thank you, Michael, and welcome, everybody. This is significant news for The European Tour, absolutely delighted that Turkish Airlines have extended their sponsorship for the three years. It's a significant prize fund and it's a very important part of The European Tour schedule.

I'd like also to thank Ahmet and the Turkish Golf Federation. Really over the last four years, Ahmet has been the driving force for all of the professional events in Turkey. He is helping with the Ladies European event and also The Challenge Tour, and obviously this Final Series event.

Special thanks really go to the Maxx Royal. This is a tremendous venue, a beautiful facility. I know all the players have enjoyed the three years here. It's significant that we can go to another equally superb venue in Carya. It demonstrates the quality of the facilities down here on the coast.

But I'd like to give a special mansion to Mehmet for the support over the last three years, and particularly this week, to Ben and all the green staff. I think as you know, we had around 300 millimetres of rain. That's 12 inches for people of my age, over the last three or four days. Some of the bunkers were severely damaged. I think they had to basically rebuild around 20 bunkers to make the course playable for the Pro-Am yesterday.

So a special thanks to Ben and his team.

Q. As we look at the list of players, we can see the defending champion, Brooks Koepka, is not here. Can you tell us the reason for this, the reason why he can't make it?
AHMET AGAOGLU: Actually, yes, you're right. The defending champion Brooks Koepka is not participating to the tournament. I think, Keith, would you like to answer this question, please. I know the reason, but better ...

KEITH WATERS: As you're probably aware, Brooks Koepka has had a very successful year on the PGA TOUR. It's obviously disappointing that he has not made it. He sent his apologies. He's actually very exhausted. He's pulled out of all tournaments for the rest of the year. He communicated that to us over the last few days. He had hoped to play more golf tournaments but he's actually not playing again this year.

Q. Can you tell us, what sort of developments have taken place in Turkish golf since the match-play event of three years ago that launched all of this?
AHMET AGAOGLU: Yeah, actually, the impact is huge. Simply, I can say that the number of incoming golf tourists increased remarkably. And that's why when Belek had the award of best golfing destination in Europe in 2008, Belek became a well-known golfing destination in the world. Imagine a golf tournament like a Final Series watched by half a million households around the globe in 39 countries, almost 2,400 hours of broadcasting plus magazines, social media, that helped a lot.

While the number of golf tourists are decreasing because of the recession and the economic crisis around the globe, somehow, Belek increased the number of the incoming golf tourists by five to ten percent since 2012. So that helped us a lot.

And of course, many of the investors are now putting their eyes on the area to build more and more golf courses. What I heard from the minister of foreign affairs a week ago in the area that there are already -- they already put in a program to build 23 golf courses in Antalya area, not only in Belek, south Antalya, Manavgat and Belek, as well.

So that shows how just one big tournament, professional golf tournament, affects the sport and industry, as well, as long as the industry is concerned golf is the only sport around the globe which brings a lot of money. I will tell it you just very briefly, I don't want to take your time, but last year, the number of incoming golf tourists are 130,000.

And the income from golf tourists from this 130,000, it's like almost around 200 million Euros, very simply that shows how important golf tourism is and how such tournaments are affecting the tourism and industry in the country.

But unfortunately, I can criticize myself, as a sport of golf, we didn't improve much. Still I have no players in the main tour events except other than playing the wild cards. But we have a new four-year program and we are working on it. I think in the end of 2018, 2019, we will have a player who will be able to play in the Olympic Games of 2020 and The European Tour events, as well. Thank you.

Q. Have the numbers increased of golfers in Turkey?
AHMET AGAOGLU: Definitely increased, and we are expecting to reach to 10,000 this year. And of course, that attracts the youngsters much more than the seniors. The number of young players are almost 80 per cent; that is if you consider the percentage of the young players, we are on the top among the PGA members. And the number of ladies are around 35 per cent. That also takes us to the top among the PGA member countries.

MICHAEL GIBBONS: Thank you, Ahmet, thank you, gentlemen.

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