Back-to-back 66s inspire Hend’s breakthrough win


Published on August 31, 2020

When Australian Scott Hend claimed the Pertamina Indonesia President Invitational on August 31 in 2008 he would have, understandably, been oblivious to the significance of the occasion.

A relative newcomer to the Asian Tour – the previous season he was Rookie of the Year – the victory was his maiden win on the circuit, but more importantly it was the one that opened the floodgates.

Indeed, on this day 12 years ago, the Asian Tour witnessed the arrival of a golfer who would become one of the circuit’s most dominant players.

The big-hitting Australian would go on to win nine more times and monopolise the Order of Merit.

And the signs of this success were very evident in his impressive victory at the Pertamina Indonesia President Invitational – which was played at Damai Indah Golf and Country Club in Jakarta.

PIPI08-PRIZE PRESENTATION-The Pertamina Indonesia President Invitational at the Damai Indah Golf and Country Club,’s, Pantai Indah Kapuk course, Jakarta, Indonesia. 28-31, August, 2008. Picture by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour.

He started slowly in the US$400,000 tournament but this was merely a smoke screen for what was to come over the weekend.

His opening round of one-under-par 71 left him with much to do as the best of the day was a 64 carded by Lin Wen-tang from Chinese Taipei – an in-form golfer, who had won earlier in the year at Asian Tour International in Thailand.

Even though Hend improved with a 69 on day two, he was five behind Malaysian Iain Steel – who took the lead on nine under with a 66.

Hend’s game then found a new dimension over the weekend and although his third-round 66 left him five adrift of tournament leaders Lin and Steel, the Australian was perfectly placed to mount a challenge.

Since joining the Asian Tour in 2007 he had finished second on three occasions and was one of the hottest golfers on Tour who was more than ready for a maiden victory.

Paired in the penultimate group on the last day with Korean-American Anthony Kang, he trailed Lin by three at turn.

Quickly responding to the challenge at hand, he made an eagle on the par-five 13th – impressively for the second day in-a-row. Lin made a par there, so the gap was down to one.

But another two shot swing soon followed when the Chinese Taipei golfer found water on the par-three 15th and made double-bogey.

It was the break Hend was looking for and from there he did not look back. The victory was secured when he made another birdie on the par-five 17th, where Lin dropped another shot.

Hend’s back-nine of four-under-par 32 and second successive 66 saw him win by three shots from Lin with a tournament total of 16-under.

Kang, Thailand’s Udorn Duangdecha and Mars Pucay from the Philippines finished third.

“I had a few runner-up finishes which is nice financially but there is nothing like winning a tournament. It is truly satisfying,” said Hend, after his win.

As a result of his success, Hend walked away with the top prize of US$63,400.

“I was solid on the back nine. I was thinking that if I shot a six under, I’ll be happy no matter what the outcome, even if I had not won. There was no real pressure and my putting was average,” he added.

“The eagle was great. I struck a solid drive and then almost holed my second shot. I told myself that I had to play solid and everything came together. I got ahead of myself on a few holes but I kept a steady momentum and I’m very happy with my finish.”

Lin’s final round 74 opened the door for Hend but he was magnanimous in defeat.

He said: “My iron play was good so I thought I could be aggressive on the 15th hole but I was too fast off the tee and the ball found the water. I also bogeyed the 17th hole. But it was a good game by Scott who played well under these challenging conditions. There are still more tournaments to play this year, so I hope to follow my rhythm and stay in contention.”

Up until that point in his career, Hend had won four times in Australia and once in Canada but the Pertamina Indonesia President Invitational was the big breakthrough victory he had been looking for.

In 2004, he decided to play on the PGA Tour but after two poor seasons because of injuries and loss of form he turned his attention to Asia and the Asian Tour Qualifying School in 2006.

And he says: “I finished second to Ben Leong (at the Qualifying School). My kids where born in December 2006 and then I went straight to Pakistan and finished second and from there on it was ‘happy days’ on the Asian Tour.”

In 2016, he became the first Australian to win the Merit title and, impressively, he also finished second on three occasions – in 2013, 2015 and 2019 – and was fourth four times – in 2007, 2009, 2014 and 2017.

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA – MARCH 24: Scott Hend of Australia holds the trophy after he wins the play off match against Nacho Elvira of Spain during Day Four of the Maybank Championship at Saujana Golf & Country Club, Palm Course on March 24, 2019 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

And when he claimed his 10th Asian Tour title in March 2019 – the Maybank Championship in Malaysia – he moved into second place on the Career Money List.

He is still in second place today with earnings of US$5,084,342 while Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee – a 13-time winner on the Tour – leads the way with winnings of US$5,744,337.

Hend has been playing on the European Tour’s “UK swing” over the past few months, will compete in the US Open in September and will no doubt be looking forward to returning to Asia when the time is right.

Ends.


Published on August 27, 2020

Angelo Que’s golf game is ready to roll, thanks to his “tennis” injury being fixed – although unfortunately, at the moment, playing time is limited.

Held up at home in Manila since March because of coronavirus pandemic restrictions, he has endured two lengthy stints of lockdown with no golf; three months from March onwards, and then last month as well.

As with all of the Asian Tour’s top golfers it has been a test of character but there has been a silver lining.

“I have actually enjoyed the rest because before the lockdown and before the end of last year, I had tennis elbow,” says Que.

“It sort of affected the way I played, and at that time I was unable to take the time needed to rest, because there were tournaments to be played and during the Christmas break, we only had two weeks off before we started playing again.

“So the rest has been a big help for my elbow but it is also frustrating because now that I don’t feel pain I want to play, but there are no tournaments.”

Angelo Que at the season-opening Hong Kong Open held at the Fanling Golf Club in Hong Kong from January 9-12, 2020. Picture by Paul Lakatos / Asian Tour.

Que’s last tournament was the Bandar Malaysia Open in March, where he tied for 31st despite the issue with his elbow.

“Pretty much everyday things caused it [the tennis elbow]. Carrying suit cases, playing a lot of golf. When I had it checked, there was no tear or big injury, it was just normal tennis elbow.

“But tennis elbow doesn’t heal as much as other injuries. It takes months and even if you work on it, it still takes months. You have to strengthen it, I have done a lot of research on it. I was surprised, I thought when it heals it’s done but no!  It actually takes months to heal, sometimes years. It doesn’t go away sometimes. So the break was actually a good thing for my elbow.”

He says the local Tour is trying to put together a series of events starting in October. They are aiming to stage six events in a row with players, men and women, being kept in a bubble throughout.

As well as that he is hoping he will be able to play in Japan later in the year if the Japan Golf Tour Organization (JGTO) are able to host three or four events in a row, so he could justify the quarantine protocols.

“After the Bandar Malaysia Open in March, the next round that I played was in June. But I am sort of used to not playing that much, especially when I am home for a month, but three months is a bit long. I felt a bit stiff, everything was a bit rusty when I started playing again.

“And then we sort of had another lockdown this month and I have not played since June actually, that’s another two months,” said Que, who has scheduled a practice round this week.

“I am trying to keep busy,” says the 41-year-old.

“Helping the kids with school work, doing groceries and trying to get some rounds in at the same time. The situation back then wasn’t as bad. It was hard to get used to it in the beginning, being in lockdown, not being able to go out, and we couldn’t play golf.

“Right now it’s got better, you can go out and play golf. You can go out and do some groceries and the lines are not so long. Except the new protocol is you have to wear masks, you have to wear face shields.”

His most recent victory was a breakthrough win in Japan two years ago at the TOP Cup Tokai Classic – where Korean Y.E. Yang finished runner-up.

“Winning in Japan, and at my age, is surreal. It is hard to keep up with the young ones right now. You look at the age of the guys dominating on the Tour now, they are in the mid-20s to early 30s, so to keep up with those guys, it is a big deal for me.

“I have been playing in Asia for 18 years, and I have played Japan for six years, so age is a big factor right now. So that win in Japan was very big, especially going against Y.E. Yang. As everybody knows, I love to eat, and the food is great there, and that is why I gained a little bit of weight. I just love the food. If I don’t play well at least I have something to look forward to.”

The Asian Tour, and the JGTO, await to see what a free-swinging and injury-free Que can do when tournaments are up and running once more.

Ends.


Published on August 24, 2020

August 24: Korea’s Taehee Lee became the first player to successfully defend his title in the 39-year history of the GS Caltex Maekyung Open when he closed with a second straight three-under-par 67 to win by one shot at the Elysian Gangchon Country Club on Sunday.

Lee, who claimed his Asian Tour breakthrough at the Maekyung Open last May, returned to a new venue for his title defence and successfully retained the trophy with a winning total of 11-under-par 199 in the 54-hole event for his fourth title on his domestic Tour.

The 36-year-old got off to a fast start with three straight birdies in his opening four holes but slipped back with four bogeys against two birdies in his next 10 holes. He bounced back with back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16 and eventually won after leader Minkyu Cho stumbled with a bogey-bogey finish.

Lee, who finished in a commendable third place on the 2019 Asian Tour Order of Merit, takes home a prize purse of US$134,442 and receives four Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points following his victory to break into the world’s top-500.

Over at the ISPS HANDA Wales Open on the European Tour, Malaysia’s Gavin Green continued his fine form to notch a top-10 finish at The Celtic Manor Resort located in the City of Newport, Wales.

Green, the 2017 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion, closed with a two-under-par 69 and a three-under-par 281 total to finish five back of winner Romain Langasque of France, marking his second top-10 finish on the European Tour this season.

Ends.


Published on August 23, 2020

Cast your eye down the list of past champions of Singapore’s National Open and one of the winners who stands out – with a truly inspirational story – is Shaun Micheel.

The American triumphed, on this day, in 1998 at SAFRA Resort & Country Club, and, as is well documented, went on to record a remarkable victory in the 2003 PGA Championship – at Oak Hill Country Club in New York.

ROCHESTER, NY – AUGUST 17: Shaun Micheel of the USA holds the trophy after winning the 85th PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club on August 17, 2003 in Rochester, New York. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

That is two “Major” victories, some would say – particularly if you are a lover of the Singapore Open.

No doubt, the seeds for Micheel’s win in the PGA Championship were sown in Singapore 22 years earlier.

In 1998, he had decided to play in Asia in order to find his form.

“After I lost my PGA Tour exemption in 1997, my manager, at the time, mentioned going to Asia with Charlie Wi – who he also managed. He felt like a complete change of scenery might help me regain the confidence that I lost after a poor year on the PGA Tour,” said Micheel from his home in Tennessee last week – after having played in the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship on the Champions Tour.

He had started his professional career in 1992 on the Sunshine Tour in South Africa and because of that experience, he felt comfortable going to Malaysia to go through the Asian Tour qualifying process. The Tour at that time was called the Omega Tour.

Having negotiated the rigours of Qualifying School, he was quick to establish himself on Tour.

Early on in 1998, he pushed Thailand’s Chawalit Plaphol and Boonchu Ruangkit all the way in the Orient Masters in China. He eventually finished in a share of third, behind Chawalit – who claimed what was to be the first of many wins on Tour – and the legendary Boonchu, who finished second.

Says Micheel: “The competition was really good and I knew that if I could find some consistency, I would have a chance to get back onto the PGA Tour.”

The game plan worked and the consistency he so desperately wanted started to return; in the lead-up to the Singapore Open he was regularly in contention and on the cusp of a breakthrough win.

“You know, I don’t remember too much about the state of my game going into Singapore. One thing stands out, however, as I prepared to travel to Singapore. The week before I left, I asked my, then, girlfriend to be my wife. At the time I had known Stephanie for 16 years and we had been dating for nearly five years. I suppose that I felt quite encouraged about my engagement and that gave me the extra lift that I needed to win,” says Micheel.

He opened with a five-under-par 67 at SAFRA, to sit in a tie for fourth; and at the halfway mark, following a 69, he was two adrift of the leader, Lu Chien-soon – one of Chinese Taipei’s greatest golfing exports and a two-time winner of the Singapore Open, in 1983 and 1989.

Another 67 by Micheel on the third day saw him move into the lead, alongside South African Hendrik Buhrmann.

And on Sunday a fourth successive sub 70 (he shot 69) saw Micheel finish two ahead of Buhrmann to triumphantly claim his first Tour win and a cheque for US$80,750.

He says: “I believe that I had only two dropped shots the entire week. I don’t recall much of the competition other than my layup on the last hole, tapping in for par and then putting on the “cowboy” hat while accepting the trophy. Afterwards, I found out that a friend of my father’s had watched me win from a hotel in Japan.”

The cowboy hat was Ericsson sponsored headgear and one of many rewards that came with his win.

“The victory in Singapore validated my choice in going overseas when many others questioned my decision. Not a day goes by at home when I don’t see my Singapore Open trophy. No one will know how much that victory energised and inspired me to get back onto the PGA Tour and eventually win the PGA Championship in 2003,” said Micheel, who was 29 years old when he won in Singapore.

He is one of four past champions of the Singapore Open to have won a Major – the other three being: Australian Adam Scott, Angel Cabrera from Argentina and Spaniard Sergio Garcia.

ROCHESTER, NY – AUGUST 17: Shaun Micheel of the USA celebrates his win on the 18th green after the final round of the 85th PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club on August 17, 2003 in Rochester, New York. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Singapore as a country also left a big impression on him, as it did for his father – who was one of the original pilots for FedEx in 1973.

“My late father travelled to Singapore quite a bit and he loved it. So, when I arrived into the country I immediately saw why he felt the way that he did. The cleanliness is what struck me initially! To be honest, I thought it was so cool to be so far away from home in a country that had so much to offer in such a small space. From the hotels to the restaurants to the natural beauty, I was enamoured with Singapore. Of course, I’ll never forget SAFRA Resort. Great memories and I would love to bring my wife over some day.”

In fact, his first year in Asia in 1998 proved to be an enormous success not just because of his victory in the Lion City.

“I absolutely loved my time in Asia. Many of the places where I competed were just faraway lands that I had read or heard about from my father who was a frequent visitor. Having a place to play was, at the time, the most important element as that was why I was there in the first place. Over time, however, I realised that it was not all about playing golf. Life in the United States was quite a bit different than many of the cities that I visited.

“Having an open mind was a bit of advice that I received and I did my best to fall in love with the new cultures, people and differences that existed. One thing that I did was to learn to a few simple words in the local language in an attempt to show respect to my new friends. Of course there was no way to become fluent in a new language overnight but I felt like it was important for me to try to fit in the best that I could. I did receive quite a bit of help from Charlie Wi and that was greatly appreciated.”

Micheel is also quick to point out the great support he received from the Tour.

He said: “In the end, my incredible experience came as the result of the incredible staff from the Asian Tour office, the players that I met and the many people who accepted me and allowed me to enjoy something new!”

After his win in Singapore he made it on to Nike Tour (now the Korn Ferry Tour) and won the NIKE Greensboro Open in 1999. And the following year he returned to the PGA Tour, so any chance of returning to play in Asia proved too difficult.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 06: Shaun Micheel of the United States watches his tee shot on the third hole during the first round of the 2020 PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park on August 06, 2020 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Now at 51 years old, he has been competing on the Champions Tour and the European Senior Tour, which he says: “allows me to keep my passport dust free and my experiences fresh.”

He adds: “Many journalists labelled me a journeyman pro like it was a negative. My experiences of competing in over 34 countries is a badge of honour that I share with all who will listen.

“I would never trade my time in Asia for anything. So many of my friendships began in Asia. Thinking of Darren Clarke, Lee Westwood, KJ Choi, Jeev Milkha Singh, John Senden and Thongchai Jaidee. I love catching up with these guys and reliving the old days. Maybe one day I can return!”

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Published on August 21, 2020

Sentosa, Singapore, August 21: Asian Tour Destinations – an exclusive network of world-class golf venues with direct ties to the Asian Tour – has significantly strengthened its presence in the region with the addition of three premier golf clubs.

Black Mountain Golf Club in Hua Hin, Thailand; Classic Golf & Country Club in New Delhi, India; and Kota Permai Golf & Country Club in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, have all become part of the exciting network, which will be adding prominent venues from the Asia Pacific region to its portfolio in the near future.

All with a history of hosting prestigious Asian Tour tournaments, they join Sentosa Golf Club, Singapore which was the first golf club to become part of the Asian Tour Destinations network in 2015.

In addition, Asian Tour Destinations has further enhanced its portfolio by partnering with online booking portal Tee Time Saver and the globally leading Customer Service Analysis provider 59Club Asia.

The iconic 18th hole of the New Tanjong and the clubhouse at Sentosa Golf Club.

Cho Minn Thant, Commissioner and CEO of the Asian Tour, said: “We welcome the new venues on board, and we look forward to working with them and further developing our relationships. They represent the top-tier of golfing properties in Asia and are a perfect fit for Asian Tour Destinations.

“Through our combined resources these golf clubs will benefit from the significant value that the Asian Tour and Asian Tour Destinations brand will add to their commercial and strategic goals in combination with support from Tee Time Saver and 59Club Asia.”

The primary mission of Asian Tour Destinations is to provide an affiliate membership programme between the associated venues – with a collective membership base of 7,500 golfers – and the Asian Tour which will help grow the game of golf in the region.

In particular, being a part of the Asian Tour Destinations network means that each venue is certified Tour caliber and operates a comprehensive range of facilities and services to their members and guests under tournament-ready conditions all-year round.

Among the core benefits, Asian Tour members will be able to play and practice at each venue facilitating for the members at each club to enjoy direct engagement with the region’s best golfers.

“Black Mountain is delighted be part of this new community of leading golf courses. We pride ourselves on being a desirable destination for visitors from all over the world and our association with the Asian Tour and Asian Tour destinations will truly help with this objective. Several Tour players already base themselves at our property and we look forward to welcoming more in the future as well as the members from the other Asian Tour Destination clubs around Asia,” said Harald Elisson, General Manager, Black Mountain.

The renowned Hua Hin venue has played host to a number of Asian Tour sanctioned tournaments including the Black Mountain Masters, the Thailand Classic, the King’s Cup, and the Royal Trophy.

Classic Golf & Country Club

“Classic Golf and Country Club has worked hard to build an international profile that highlights our world-class venue and so our new relationship with Asian Tour Destinations network is the perfect conduit for this, among many other benefits,” added Deepak C. Menezes, the Managing Director of Landbase India Ltd., Classic Golf & Country – venue for the Panasonic Open India, the Classic Golf and Country Club International Championship, and the Sail Open.

“Kota Permai Golf & Country Club has always embraced the spirit of providing the best golfing experience possible to all our patrons. As one of the leading golf clubs in Malaysia, we would like to ensure that we are aligned with other elite clubs in Asia plus the region’s foremost professional golf Tour. Becoming a member of Asian Tour Destinations is an honour and an exciting opportunity for Kota Permai to showcase our pristine golf course, excellent club facilities as well as warm hospitality. We look forward to welcoming both Tour players and Asian Tour Destinations members alike,” said Tang Meng Loon, Director of Club, Township & Property Management at Gamuda Land.

Kota Permai Golf and Country Club

The golf club has been hosting events on the Asian Tour for nearly 20 years such as the Volvo Masters of Asia, the Selangor Masters and more recently the 2020 Bandar Malaysia Open.

Sentosa Golf Club, home of the Asian Tour and the SMBC Singapore Open, has enjoyed its role as a founding member of Asian Tour Destinations.

“Sentosa Golf Club boasts a strong bond with the Asian Tour and our involvement with Asian Tour Destinations allows us to push ahead with one of our key roles, which is to help the golf industry in the region, as a whole, attain new levels of quality and excellence. We look forward to working with the venues who have recently joined,” said Andy Johnston – General Manager and Director of Agronomy at Sentosa Golf Club.

In addition, Asian Tour Destinations has established a partnership with the Tee Time Saver to promote its network of venues. Tee Time Saver provides an integrated search and booking engine for golfers to easily find the best tee-time and golf packages available for Asian Tour Destinations venues. They will also produce dedicated content on their website and social media platforms for golf fans to have in-depth reviews from Asian Tour professionals on the destination venues including strategies to adopt when playing signature holes.

As the leading sales & service analyst and performance training provider in Asia, 59club Asia delivers the resources to significantly improve and maintain sales & service etiquette, in turn increasing customer satisfaction, revenue and ultimately profits. 59club Asia are the only company in golf industry that rewards venues achieving improved customer service levels, recognised though mystery shopping audits, presenting Service Excellence Awards, famously known as the ‘Oscars’ of the industry.

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Published on August 20, 2020

Sentosa, Singapore, August 20: Officials announced today that the 36th Shinhan Donghae Open will be staged as a domestic KPGA tournament next month due to travel restrictions caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Held annually in Korea since 1981, the Shinhan Donghae Open was jointly sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the KPGA in 2016 before becoming the first event in Korea to be tri-sanctioned by the Asian Tour, KPGA and Japan Golf Tour Organisation (JGTO) in 2019.

The event has grown from strength to strength over the years, delivering top-notch golfing action and celebrating many worthy champions but the unprecedented global situation has forced officials to take a step back with this difficult but necessary decision.

The Shinhan Donghae Open will continue to provide playing opportunities for Korea-based players and the Asian Tour remains committed by broadcasting the storied event to our international audience via the Asian Tour Media platform, like previous years.

The tournament will return to the highly rated Bear’s Best Cheongna Golf Club in Incheon, Korea, for the fifth consecutive edition from September 10 to 13. The winner will gain playing rights for the remainder of the Asian Tour’s 2020/21 season but prize money earned will not count towards the Order of Merit.

Asian Tour standouts Joohyung Kim, Jeunghun Wang and Yikeun Chang are expected to spearhead the talented field alongside established winners Richard T. Lee of Canada and American Micah Shin in the prestigious event next month.

“We felt this was the best way to proceed given the concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. We are disappointed that we are unable to stage the event as per initial plans, but we know it’s the right decision to make based on the information we have today,” said Yong-byoung Cho, Chairman of the Shinhan Financial Group.

“We will strive for another successful staging of the Shinhan Donghae Open next month. Though the event will not be held in the way that we intended this year, we will continue to work together with the Asian Tour, KPGA and JGTO for future editions,” he added.

Cho Minn Thant, Commissioner and CEO of the Asian Tour, expressed his appreciation, saying: “I would like to thank the Shinhan Financial Group for continuing their support for Asian golf with the staging of the Shinhan Donghae Open in 2020 amidst turbulent times.”

“The world is experiencing many unprecedented “firsts” in 2020 and the participants and fans, who will be viewing the tournament from their homes, are fortunate that such a high-quality tournament being played,” he added.

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Published on August 19, 2020

Indonesia’s budding young golf star Danny Masrin, like the vast majority of members on the Asian Tour, has chosen to use the current downtime – caused by the coronavirus pandemic – wisely and constructively.

“I decided to go back to school,” says Masrin.

“I have been doing an online Masters programme, which I started in May. It’s with the Thunderbird school, through Arizona State University. I thought if I am ever going to do it, now is the time.”

Keeping the mind sharp is a smart move by the 27-year-old as he is as eager as anyone to get back in action when the Asian Tour resumes.

Prior to lockdown gripping the region in March, Masrin unlocked his potential and found what it takes to play and compete with the best in the region.

He explains: “From the end of last year I was playing really good golf – since the BNI Indonesian Masters until the Bandar Malaysia Open. There were six tournaments there where I had two top-10s, three top-15s, I was playing pretty good. I was really happy.”

He had struggled to find his feet on Tour since turning professional in 2015, but last year his patience and conviction started to pay off.

In the middle of the year, his upswing in fortunes started when he made the cut in seven tournaments in a row, including finishing seventh at the Yeangder TPC in Chinese Taipei.

And then came the BNI Indonesian Masters in December at Royal Jakarta Golf Club.

“I was 55th on the Order of Merit going into the BNI Indonesian Masters – I was kind of on the edge, and I really wanted to finish higher. People were saying you are safe but the higher you are the better it is,” said the Indonesian.

Impressively, he overcame the pressure of fighting for his Tour card, and playing in front of his home support, to produce a breakthrough performance and finish in a tie for fifth – his best finish on Tour.

He says a big factor contributing to that result was having his mentor, Teddy Harmidy, caddie for him.

“To have Teddy, a good friend and mentor as my caddie was amazing. We play and practice all the time. It just gave me a level of comfort,” he says.

“Everything clicked there at the right time. We both know that course very well. So it was a matter of executing.”

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After that result he headed to the Thailand Masters – the final event of the year – brimming with confidence.

He says: “I still remember how much of a relief it was going to Thailand for the last event, as I had secured my card. I could just go out and play, there was no pressure any more. Knowing that I would get into a lot more tournaments, and that I could actually prepare. In the past it was like you might get into this tournament but you might not. Sometimes you had to be ready to leave at last minute notice.”

It was indeed a new dawn for the young Indonesian: he finished in the top-20 in Thailand, and in early 2020 he recorded a top-30 finish in the Hong Kong Open, captured equal eighth place in the SMBC Singapore Open and ended joint 13th in the Bandar Malaysia Open.

But, unfortunately, soon after Malaysia the Tour had to hit the pause button because of coronavirus.

“I have been in Jakarta since then, it’s probably the longest I have been in Jakarta,” says Masrin, who attended Bradley University, in Illinois, where he played on the golf team.

“After that solid start to the year, the schedule had been looking really good with events going two weeks on, two weeks off through to August but then we have to go through this.”

Masrin has since been playing and practicing and as he says: “keeping the body warm and in shape, and ready to play again.”

“I used to be of the mindset that if I take too many days off, I won’t be ready to play but it has been nice to know that if I take a few days off my body is still ready to play again at a high level,” he says.

“I am still playing pretty well, there have been moments during these five months when I wished there were tournaments to play in but there is nothing you can do about it.”

He practices at the Royale Jakarta, Pondok Indah and BSD courses and has been buoyed by the fact that the local Tour is aiming to stage an event each month from September until the end of the year.

“It is something to look forward to as we have not played in so long,” says Masrin, who has won seven events on local tour, with the most recent last year.

Masrin was also aiming to play in this summer’s Olympics and was bitterly disappointed it was postponed.

“For the longest time, for the last two and a half years, one of my biggest aims was to qualify for the Olympics. To have an Indonesian player represented at golf in the Olympics was the ultimate goal,” he says.

“This year we were coming down to the final stretch in the run up to Tokyo, I was on track to qualify and that’s why I was so excited I was playing well, but then obviously things changed, and now I will prepare for the tournaments I need to play in order to qualify for next year.”

There is no doubt that there is now huge cause for optimism for Masrin – thanks to his new found form and fine performances.

That has not always been the case over the past few years.

“There are a lot of struggles in golf, from the mental side, to the physical side, to the golf swing,” he says.

“There was a time in 2017 when I was playing really poorly, and I thought about quitting golf and I thought about what my options were. But when I first started playing professionally, I said I would give myself three to five years to see if professional golf was a stable career for myself and I have stayed true to that.

“Golf is a tough sport to be in as it is so uncertain. From week to week, it’s tough as you don’t know if you will have 10 weeks of missed cuts, with 10 weeks of spending money without making money, or you win one event and everything changes.”

As well as Teddy Harmidy – a former Indonesian national player, who played with American star David Duval on the Georgia Tech golf team in the United States – playing an important role in his success, a more holistic approach has also been key.

“What I have done well, the last year and a half, is I have started to focus on the statistics more. I have broken it down into more of the technical side, not of the swing, but the numbers of what needs to be focused on. I think I have a very good idea of what my strengths are and what my weaknesses are. I have been able to focus on those areas over the past 18 months.”

The analytical strategy has clearly worked and with a Masters degree imminent, he will be more applied than ever when the region once again opens up to tournament golf.

Ends.


Published on August 16, 2020

At last weekend’s PGA Championship, there was a real possibility that a player from Asia would lift the famous Wanamaker Trophy.

The huge audience of golfers, and non-golfers, watching west of the Pacific tuned in to see if China’s Li Haotong could prevail after leading at the halfway mark.

Sadly, his challenge failed to materialize over the weekend while Asia had some consolation in the fact that the winner, America’s shining new-star Collin Morikawa, is half Japanese.

And so the quest by Asia to produce a winner of a Major to match Korean Y.E. Yang’s legendary victory in the 2009 PGA Championship continues.

That memorable win was, in fact, achieved 11 years ago on this day.

CHASKA, MN – AUGUST 16: Y.E. Yang of South Korea celebrates his birdie putt on the 18th green during the final round of the 91st PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club on August 16, 2009 in Chaska, Minnesota. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

In what is another significant moment in time that feels like only yesterday, Yang became the first Asian-born player to win a Major.

He surpassed the previous best performances by Asians in Majors, which were runner-up finishes by Chinese Taipei’s  Lu Liang-huan in the 1971 Open Championship; Isao Aoki, from Japan, in the 1980 U.S. Open; and Chinese Taipei’s Chen Tze-chung in the 1985 U.S. Open.

Li also came close in 2017 when he claimed third place in The Open while Korean K.J. Choi was third in the 2004 Masters – and fourth in the same event six years later.

The 91st PGA Championship was played at Hazeltine National Golf Club and Yang’s victory was one of the biggest upsets of the century and had a seismic impact on the game of golf because not only did he break Asia’s duck at Majors but he also defeated American superstar and world number one Tiger Woods.

Woods had already won 14 Majors – at that time, it would have been inconceivable to think his next one would be the Masters in 2019 – and he had never lost any tournament on American soil when leading by more than one shot.

CHASKA, MN – AUGUST 16: Y.E. Yang of South Korea (2nd L) celebrates a birdie putt on the 18th green alongside Tiger Woods (2nd R) during the final round of the 91st PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club on August 16, 2009 in Chaska, Minnesota. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Yang, a 37-year-old who attended the PGA Tour qualifying school nine months before, was ranked 110 in the world and was barely known State side.

But that was the beauty of his moment of glory, as it was a victory sealed by stealth.

Unknown and unheralded in America, he arrived at Hazeltine already a prolific winner in Asia having claimed four titles in Japan and two on the Asian Tour.

He had also fired a warning shot early on in 2009 by winning the Honda Classic in March – becoming only the second player from the Land of Morning Calm to win on the PGA Tour. Choi was the first in 2002.

A fine victory it was but it did little to alert experts in the game about what was to happen five months later in the final Major of the year.

And as expected, Woods was dominant over the first three days at Hazeltine and appeared on course to collect his fifth PGA Championship.

He was the central character in a golden era for the game thanks to his divine brilliance.

Yang had started poorly with a one-over-par 73 but gained some confidence the next day by firing a 70 to move into the top-10 – trailing Woods by six.

CHASKA, MN – AUGUST 16: Y.E. Yang of South Korea poses with the Wanamaker Trophy after his three-stroke victory at the 91st PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club on August 16, 2009 in Chaska, Minnesota. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

But Yang used all of his powerful well built-frame – matched only by his illustrious countryman Choi – to move into contention on day three. He fired a 67 to sit two back of Woods in joint second with Ireland’s Padraig Harrington – the defending champion and already a three-time Major winner.

The Korean was in exalted company – but this was a Major – and the occasion became even more sublime when he was paired with Woods on the final day.

On the front nine, Woods was out of sorts and three-putted for bogey at number four and made bogey from the bunker on eight to make the turn in two over. That meant Yang drew level.

They were still tied with five holes to play when Yang delivered a knockout blow, much in the same way that Morikawa did when he made eagle on the par-four 16th at TPC Harding last Sunday.

Woods had appeared to have the upper hand and was in birdie range at the par-four 14th, but Yang sensationally countered by chipping in from 60 feet for eagle to take the lead by one.

And he had maintained that slim advantage by the time they reached the par-four 18th, where Yang was called upon again to conjure one final bit of magic.

For his second shot, a tree slightly blocked his view of the flag and with Woods in the fairway, Yang needed to hit the shot of his life.

He duly accepted the challenge, and with his three-iron hybrid he cleared a bunker and saw his ball come to rest 12 feet away, where he made birdie to seal a history-making victory.

He closed with a 70 for a three-stroke victory over Woods, who shot a final-round 75 after missing a short par putt on the last for his worst score ever in the final round of a Major when he was in the last group.

“It’s not like you’re in an octagon where you’re fighting against Tiger and he’s going to bite you, or swing at you with his nine-iron,” said Yang, after through an interpreter. “The worst that I could do was just lose to Tiger. So I really had nothing much at stake.”

“This might be my last win as a golfer,” added Yang. “But it sure is a great day.”

“All the other 14 major championships I’ve won, I’ve putted well for the entire week,” Woods said. “And today, that didn’t happen.”

“He [Yang] went out there and executed his game plan. He was doing exactly what you have to do, especially in these conditions. I think he played beautifully.”

Yang finished on eight-under 280 and won US$1.35 million, along with a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour and the Majors.

Y.E. Yang of South Korea after sinking his putt to win August 16 ,2009 at the 91st PGA Championship at the Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota. At right is Tiger Woods of the US . AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

Even Korea’s president, Lee Myung-bak, got up before sunrise to watch the tournament live. He later phoned Yang to offer his congratulations.

“I woke up at dawn today to watch the broadcast, and you played in a calm manner,” Lee told Yang, according to Lee’s office. “First of all, you enhanced our people’s morale by winning the Major title for the first time as an Asian.”

It was indeed a triumph of great magnitude on a day when Yang rode into Mayor City, made a Major name for himself and Majored in the game of life.

Ends.


Published on August 13, 2020

August 13: Panuphol Pittayarat would have been forgiven if he had chosen to celebrate his joint fifth-place finish in the Singha-Sat Prachinburi Championship on the Thailand PGA Tour last Sunday in a slightly exaggerated fashion.

Put mildly, it has been a testing year for the 27-year-old and not for all the obvious reasons relating to the menace that is coronavirus.

“I was playing really well and then I got sick in Hong Kong. I got a fever,” said Panuphol, referring to the Hong Kong Open in January – where he was forced to retire after three rounds.

HONG KONG- The Hong Kong Open at the Fanling Golf Club, Fanling, Hong Kong, the Asian Tour USD$ 1 million season opener event, January 9-12, 2020. Picture by Paul Lakatos / Asian Tour.

The young man, affectionately known as “Coconut”, is quick to point out it was unrelated to Covid-19.

But the deadly virus, that has sent the world into turmoil, would soon impact him.

“I was home in Bangkok when lockdown first hit,” said Panuphol, speaking from this week’s Singha Pattaya Open.

Like so many of his peers on Tour, he treated the enforced layoff positively.

He adds: “It gave me time to take some time off. I took it in a good way. I spent my time resting basically and doing nothing. I had time to spend with my girlfriend, my family, and with my dog. It gave us some time to rethink, to boost my body.”

To help fill the hours in the day, he rather industriously decided to make and sell ice cream along with his girlfriend and sister.

“It was like a mango yoghurt ice cream. We sold it so that we had something to do, just to friends and family and some of the players tried it. We did pretty well and sold 400 or 500 cups. Any money we made I mostly gave it to my girlfriend and sister. I was really just the wing man,” he says.

It was a period of special downtime time for a golfer who has been a professional since 2009 – he made the transition to the play-for-pay game when he was just 16 years old.

However, when Thailand opened up again after over three months and local tournaments began to reappear on the schedule, Panuphol experienced something unexpected for the first time in his career.

He says: “I basically injured myself by resting and not playing golf during lockdown. My shoulder and back started to hurt badly. I think I did it by doing nothing. I was away from the gym and not doing fitness, not playing golf. I saw a physio, a doctor and chiropractor, I saw everybody, about four people. I tried to get back and recover quickly. I spent a lot of time on recovery. It took me a month to get back on track after lockdown.”

In his first tournament back, the Thongchai Jaidee Foundation in July on the All Thailand Golf Tour, he missed the cut.

“I shot five over on the first day and then missed the cut. I told myself to get it together, so I started to go to the gym and practice. My game then started to get better and better. I got back on track, made the cut in the second and third events and finished in a tie for fifth last week.”

It is a bonus for everyone that Panuphol is up and running again.

Over recent seasons he broke through on the Asian Tour with two magnificent and hugely popular victories: first in the 2017 Indonesian Open and then the Thailand Open in 2018 – the latter win coming on his home course at Thai Country Club.

“I have been on Tour for eight or nine years, and it took me six years before I won. It told me I can win. Those wins made me realize I needed to practice even harder, spend more time on the practice area, on the putting green, fixing my faults, and making myself a better person. Those were the key factors. And since those wins I know I have to start working towards what I do best and do what I have to do,” says the Thai star.

He has also tried his hand on the Japan Golf Tour Organization over the past two years and despite struggling there he is determined to return there when conditions permit.

“The problem in Japan was my tee shot. I wasn’t comfortable. Golf courses in Japan are very narrow and tree-lined. I couldn’t adjust to looking at a straight fairway. Most courses in Asia have a dogleg either, left or right. Hitting bad tee shots effected my game and score. I felt like I was hitting out of bounds every day,” he says.

CHACHOENGSAO -THAILAND – Panuphol Pittayarat of Thailand, defending champion, pictured on Tuesday November 5, 2019 during the Thailand Open Pro-am event at the Thai Country Club, Chachoengsao, Thailand. The USD$ 300.000 event is an Asian Tour event, November 7-10, 2019. Picture by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour.

For now though, and through to the rest of the year, he is focused on playing tournaments on home soil.

“I turned pro when I was 16, but first started playing in pro events when I was 14. It was definitely difficult as a junior coming out and playing with the best in the country. I think I took the right decision, because I learned so much. I have no regrets,” he says.

“I would like to play better, play on a bigger stage, in Japan, in Europe, if possible the PGA Tour. My goal is playing golf at the top level, my every day goal is to make a living out of it, so if I am not then I am not achieving my main goal.”

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Published on August 12, 2020

Greensboro, North Carolina: India’s Anirban Lahiri is feeling like a kid in a candy store and it is for a very good reason.

This week, the 33-year-old will tee up in his first PGA TOUR tournament in five months at the Wyndham Championship due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which kept him in his home country for an unplanned and extended period of time.

“I’m feeling excited. It’s not something I’ve felt like in a long time,” Lahiri said. “It’s like going back to school after a summer vacation. It’s a good thing.”

In March, he flew home to his native India to feature in his national Open, but the sporting world came to a grinding halt when the COVID-19 pandemic led to countries shutting borders and grounding international travel.

When the PGA TOUR resumed competition in mid-June after a three-month suspension, Lahiri was forced to sit out as he could not return to the United States. The upside though of being home gave him the opportunity to reset and rebuild his game from scratch with long-time coach Vijay Divecha.

“I got to spend six weeks with Vijay which I haven’t done in like five or six years. It’s a big reset and I was able to work continuously with him,” said Lahiri, who has endured a lean spell of form where his last top-10 was at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in November 2018.

“We basically disassembled the engine and put everything back together. In the last few years, I’ve only had the opportunity to see Vijay for short periods of time and those were often fixes.

“This time, we have rebuilt from scratch and started with the assumption you don’t know how to play golf and have never held a club. We started with the grip, posture, the basics and fundamentals, and worked our way up. We deleted the good and the bad stuff, and it’s a clean slate. We’ve actually done this a few times previously to give ourselves a reset.”

This week, he will put his game to a test with a third visit to Sedgefield Country Club, a Donald Ross design which was coincidentally the scene where countryman Arjun Atwal secured an historic victory at the 2010 Wyndham Championship, making him the first Indian winner on TOUR.

“I like it as it’s an old school track, tree-lined and you have to shape shots,” said Lahiri, who played all four rounds in 2017 and 2019. “There’s a good mix of lengthy holes and shortish holes. If you get hot, you can make lots of birdies and do a lot of damage.”

Lahiri remains in search of his maiden PGA TOUR title, having finished inside the top 3 on two occasions at the 2016 CIMB Classic and 2017 the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide.

“I feel good about my game in a way I haven’t felt in a long time. I feel good about playing golf again. If you don’t play well for an extended period, it can work against you,” Lahiri said. “If you put in the good work, which I believe I have, you restart by building the confidence up again and I’m excited about competing.

“I haven’t watched much of the golf since the restart which is a good thing as I would have missed it even more. But now that I’m back in America, I’m ready to go. I’m hungry. I love playing golf and I love competing. I’m ready to get out there and pushing myself,” he added.

The Wyndham Championship is the final event of the Regular Season. The top 125 players from the FedExCup points list will qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs, comprising of THE NORTHERN TRUST, BMW Championship and TOUR Championship. The FedExCup winner will win US$15 million, the largest winner’s prize in golf.

Ends.