October 2020 | Asian Tour

Sentosa Golf Club unveils Environmental Documentary Film


Published on October 30, 2020

Sentosa Golf Club has marked its most recent award of ‘World’s Best Eco-Friendly Golf Facility’ by premiering a new environmental documentary film to raise awareness of the importance of climate change in golf.

The documentary forms part of the club’s GAME ON campaign, which has received backing from The R&A following its launch at the SMBC Singapore Open earlier this year.

Coinciding after it was named ‘World’s Best Eco-Friendly Golf Facility’ at the 2020 World Golf Awards this week, the film shows viewers some of the key measures already implemented at the club, such as the creation of bee colonies, the installation of reservoir-lakes and the banning of single-use plastics.

The club, which became the first golf club in the world to sign the UN’s Sports for Climate Action Agreement back in July, hopes the film will serve as inspiration to golf’s response to climate change, as well as help clubs around the world to understand the importance of reducing their carbon footprint by implementing initiatives for the betterment of the environment.

Sentosa is also planning a free environmental toolkit to further help golf clubs deal with the real threat of climate change.

With over 61 million golfers and 39,000 golf courses worldwide, the club firmly believes golf has the ability to become one of the leading industries to help reverse climate change and make a considerable impact.

The wider GAME ON campaign aims to educate and inspire the global golfing community to create a more socially conscious industry and consumer, who will be better prepared to introduce new modern practices for the betterment of the environment, as well as improving the quality of facilities on offer throughout the world. It is closely aligned with The R&A’s 2030 Golf Course Initiative.

Speaking about the unveiling of the documentary, Andrew Johnston, General Manager and Director of Agronomy at Sentosa Golf Club, said: “Today is a very special day. The unveiling of the GAME ON documentary marks the day golf’s major stakeholders and global community unite to fight climate change. Sentosa Golf Club are proud to be at the forefront of this campaign and hope to create a legacy with golf’s leading organisations and community that will have a huge bearing on our future.”

On being awarded ‘World’s Best Eco-Friendly Golf Facility’, Johnston added: “It is a tremendous achievement for Sentosa to be recognised by golf’s leading professionals as the ‘World’s Best Eco-Friendly Facility’ and once again as ‘Singapore’s Best Golf Course’ for the third year running. Being awarded these accolades is down to the hard work that is put in by all our staff and members to maintain the high standards that are set by the club 365 days of the year.

“Since 2018, we have worked hard to create a sustainable environment on-site at the club and are grateful for all the support we have received from our partners and stakeholders in our journey so far. Even with this recognition, the club will continue to improve and look to pioneer new sustainable initiatives as we look to lead the industry in tackling this critical issue.”

Sentosa fought off competition from other leaders in the environmental space to collect their latest eco accolade at the 7th annual World Golf Awards, recognised for the leadership and responsibility it has shown in planning, constructing and managing a resource efficient and ecologically rich golf environment, as well as playing an inspirational role in expanding environmental activity throughout the region.

The club also took home the title of ‘Singapore’s Best Golf Course’ for The Serapong course for the second year in a row. The course plays host to the SMBC Singapore Open every year, welcoming the world’s best players from all around the world.

Chris Gray, Head of Sustainability and Agronomy – Asia-Pacific at The R&A, added: “The R&A is delighted to be part of Sentosa Golf Club’s unveiling of their GAME ON documentary. It is great to be part of something so important and be able to work together on a global scale to fight the issues that really matter to golf and the world. GAME ON, which is closely aligned with our own Golf Course 2030 initiative, is not only a vital campaign in helping to reverse the impact of climate change, but it is also crucial to the overall survival of golf, a game that is so widely loved throughout the world.”

Commenting on the latest award for the club, Sentosa Development Corporation CEO, Thien Kwee Eng, said: “It is a great honour for Sentosa Golf Club to receive two awards at this year’s World Golf Awards. We are extremely proud of the work our team has put in throughout the year, not only expanding its environmental credentials, but also continuously maintaining the top-quality conditions of its two championship courses. By doing so, the club has attracted some of Asia’s most prestigious events and helped showcase Sentosa as one of the world’s top global tourist destinations.”

The newly crowned ‘World’s Best Eco-Friendly Facility’ also boosted its approach to environmental sustainability by forming a partnership with international sustainable golf non-profit, GEO Foundation. The collaboration will see the integration of GEO’s industry-leading OnCourse® program and GEO Certified label with Sentosa’s ‘green-culture’ to pioneer new innovative practices, as well as gather, verify, and report credible results to share with other clubs around the world.

A recent Golf Sustainability Fund Grant by The R&A made Sentosa the first club in Asia able to grind down food and horticultural waste to reuse as fertiliser on its golf courses.

Ends.


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In the first of our new monthly Player Q&A series, we talk to Australian Terry Pilkadaris – not only the winner of three titles on Tour but also runner-up on nine occasions. It was a good time to speak to him as he had just come out of lockdown in Melbourne and has recently been nominated into the Asian Tour Tournament Players’ Committee.

This week the lockdown was lifted in Victoria – for the second time this year. You must be relieved. How difficult was the experience for you?

It was kind of hard. We got through it. You can’t do anything. We had a lot of restrictions: we could only travel 5km, that was the maximum we could travel, and we could only get out for an hour of exercise a day. So it was quite strict. We were locked down 23 hours a day so you look forward to your one hour of exercise.

What did you spend your time doing?

I got engaged in late August! In lockdown, Victoria and I were spending all this time together and we were getting along really well so I thought we should do the right thing. She has been great to me, we have travelled the last couple of years together out on Tour and she has been an absolute delight to be with. We have had an absolute ball.

And, I have been doing my PGA of Australia accreditation. So I was doing assignments and things like that. It is called a bridging course, so I get qualified to teach, be a club professional, and manage a pro shop.

I was teaching online as well, so people would send some stuff in and I would do some work with them.

When was the last time you played golf?

I think I played a game in June. I have basically played 18 holes since the Bandar Malaysian Open in March. I played a team event with Peter Wilson and we lost on the 19th hole and I thought, right that’s me done for now. I have been a Touring professional for 21 years and when you have no tournaments in sight there is no interest in practicing. The big thing is the thrill of the competition and we haven’t had that for a while.

But I needed a break as I was burnt out. We didn’t really stop from the end of last year. A six-week break would have been fantastic but unfortunately it’s been a lot longer, everyone has been struggling and locking down, so I have had a longer break.

Difficult to say but what are your plans?

We have just got to wait and see what happens with events. I think I would have got a start this week on the European Tour in Cyprus. There are a couple of events there. The problem we have though is I have not picked up a golf club since June, and haven’t been able to step foot on a golf course for 12 weeks. And then I would have to quarantine when I got back home – sit in a hotel for two weeks. It wasn’t a viable option to fly all the way to Europe and back. The problem with that is they also limit the number of people flying back into Australia – so it could take longer to get back.

How were you playing before lockdown in March?

I was playing pretty good. I had a top-10 in Hong Kong in January. I finished middle of the pack in New Zealand in March but I was running out of gas: I think I only had 10 days off between the Australian PGA at the end of last year and then Hong Kong this year. I was looking forward to a break but now it is frustrating, I wanna get out and play again. I will do some teaching and when we get a definite idea of when the tournaments come I will start prepping.

HONG KONG, CHINA – JANUARY 11: Terry Pilkadaris of Australia tees off the first hole during the third round of the Hong Kong Open at the Hong Kong Golf Club on January 11, 2020 in Hong Kong. (Photo by Yu Chun Christopher Wong/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)

Have you been working on your fitness?

Yes. I am four to five weeks into a 12-week programme. It is a club head speed programme, so I am working with Paul Mews, who is a long-drive guy ranked in the top-five in Australia and also a personal trainer. He has written up some programmes for me. So I have increased my driver head speed by six miles an hour and we want to get it up to 10 miles an hour quicker – so we are on our way. It is a 45-mnute programme, five days-a-week. There is a lot of body weight stuff and band work. When I get back on Tour this will help me get some extra distance which will be a huge bonus. I need an extra 10 metres. But doing all these burpees I realize I am not 25 anymore. I don’t know what happened, I remember being 31 and now I am nearly 47!

This weekend will be the 16th anniversary of your win at the Sanya Open – which came a week after you won the Crowne Plaza Open in Shanghai. You must still remember those amazing two weeks well?

Absolutely. The first one, Crowne Plaza at Tomson Golf Club. We had played the BMW Asian Open there in May and as soon as I found out it was on I thought I can win this one because I liked the course and it just suited my eye. Leading up to it I was playing well and should have won the Korean Open but finished fourth and finished second in the Taiwan Open a few weeks later. I just played nicely and didn’t make too many mistakes. It helped the course was set up like a Sandbelt course in Australia – the greens were fast and firm.

Sanya was a different type of golf course, it was windy, but I was shooting the lights out and playing well. I ended up in a play-off with Clay Devers and I remember his caddie looked as if he had 10 Red Bulls, he was just bouncing off the walls and was really pumped up, more than Clay. I won it on the second play-off hole after hitting my second to a foot. Clay had a 40 footer for birdie and after he missed he picked up my marker and congratulated me but the ref stepped in and said no no I had to putt out. But I tapped it in and all of a sudden it’s back-to-back wins. Wow! It was bizarre.

The Korean Open was a big influence. I had the lead and I was playing with Ernie Els – who was number three in the world at that time. I was going toe-to-toe with him. I was leading by four at one point and had a one-shot lead going into Sunday but I made triple on 14. But I was talking to Ernie afterwards and I asked him what do you think of my game and he was full of praise and that gave me the confidence to go on.

This week you were elected to the Tournament Players’ Committee of the Asian Tour. What are some of the things you are hoping to achieve?

I have been out here long enough and feel like I can contribute. It’s going to be a lot of work and I am looking forward to it. I want to go more on the players perspective and I have some ideas on what I would like to see happen. Having been out here 21 years I have seen how some things have worked and how some things haven’t worked. But I am really looking forward to getting going once the Tour is up and running. I definitely feel revived and ready to go!

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Published on October 29, 2020

Southampton, Bermuda, October 28: India’s Anirban Lahiri walks with a slight spring in his steps these days. Gone are the times when he would stare at the ground with shoulders slumped after concluding another round on the PGA TOUR.

Confidence is a vital ingredient in any athlete’s daily grind and the 33-year-old Lahiri is certainly enjoying a new sense of self-belief after enjoying a decent run with a first top-10 in nearly two years and a couple of top-40s in his first three starts to the 2020-21 PGA TOUR Season.

Following a three-week break, Lahiri, who at his heights represented the International Team in the Presidents Cup in 2015 and 2017, tees it up at the Bermuda Championship this week where he is eager to make further improvements after enduring a difficult past two years which has seen him miss more cuts that he’d like to.

“I’m really excited … it’s been three good weeks. I got a lot of work done, took some time off, kind of reflected on the start and also looked at areas that I need to work on and get better at. I’m playing much better. For me, it’s all about staying in the process and keep moving in that direction,” said Lahiri.

The tenacious Indian, who is a former Asian Tour No. 1, finished T36 in the season-opening Safeway Open last month, T6 at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship and T37 at the Sanderson Farms Championship to currently lie in 51st position on the FedExCup points list. In those tournaments, he shot two average rounds, a 77 at Safeway and a 74 at Sanderson Farms, which he knows hurt his chances of higher finishes.

“It’s all about building that momentum going forward, build on that confidence and belief and snowball it into getting into contention more often, maybe this week, and try to work for a ‘W’. I have to think that way. That’s my attitude at the moment and that’s what I’m looking forward to. The game has been one bad round or mediocre round every event, and there’s been a lot of good golf and a lot of birdies and a lot of other positives as well,” said Lahiri.

While he continues to work regularly with long-time coach Vijay Divecha, Lahiri has spent time recently with short-game coach James Sieckmann to sharpen his tools as he seeks a career breakthrough on the PGA TOUR in what is his sixth season in the U.S.

Obviously spending extended time with my coach back in India (during the shutdown) made a huge difference and that’s beginning to show. I trust my game a lot more, hitting my game a lot better, I’m hitting my irons a lot better, which has basically always been my strength and not so much so in the last couple years. So getting back to basics,” said Lahiri, who holds 11 top-10s, including one runner-up finish, in 122 career starts on the the PGA TOUR.

Lahiri has an old score to settle at the Bermuda Championship which he shot rounds of 66 and 73 in the inaugural tournament last year but had to withdraw before the start of the third round due to injury. “I played well the few holes that I did play last year. Yeah, hoping to extend that to 72 and keep playing well. It’s unique. Obviously the biggest challenge here is the wind and I consider myself to be a pretty good wind player. I’ve had a lot of good results at windy venues and the grasses are tropical, so it’s a lot like what I’m used to playing, primarily Bermuda,” he said.

“It was unfortunate that I got hurt, but up until that point of time I felt really comfortable on the golf course. Hopefully I’ll feel the same way when I get started and I’m looking forward to it.”

He is also looking forward to seeing fans back on the golf course as the Bermuda Championship will become the first event on TOUR to allow fans back on site. “I think it’s a great sign. I think it’s a step forward. Bermuda as a country has done really well in managing and handling the virus. It will be great for us to have the galleries again and have that atmosphere that obviously they bring, the fans bring.”

As he isn’t in the field for next week’s Vivint Houston Open, Lahiir hopes to gain a backdoor entry by finishing in the top-10 in Bermuda, similar to what he did with his top-10 in Corales Puntacana which got him into the Sanderson Farms Championship. “There’s a lot to play for. I’m in a position where I’m not getting into a lot of events. This is going to be my fourth event of the year and may even be the last just looking at how many entries have come in for the remainder of the events. So I have to make the most of it,” said Lahiri.

“I have to try and get as many points up so when the season restarts, whenever I get my next opportunity, I’m not trying to run with a gun to my head. It’s very important for me to get off to that start, so it’s important for me to be focused at every event.

“I’m close, I’m definitely close. How close, I don’t know. Might be this week, might be two weeks from now. I think if I keep playing to my ability, to my potential, that I can push it further and further and higher and that’s how I want to look at it.”

Ends.


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One of New Zealand’s pre-eminent sporting events, the New Zealand Golf Open, scheduled to be played at Millbrook Resort and The Hills in February 2021 has been cancelled.

The Chairman of the Organising Committee, Mr John Hart, confirmed the cancellation, due to the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic and the related health and financial risks.

The 102nd New Zealand Open will now be played between 17th and 20th February 2022.

“We are extremely disappointed to have had to come to this decision but the effects of the pandemic, borders being closed, and the financial risk associated with a potential later cancellation due to any further Covid-19 outbreaks means we have no other alternative other than to cancel this event now.”

“With up to 300 international participants coming from offshore (including professional players, amateur players, caddies, and officials of our Tour partners (the PGA Tour of Australasia, the Asian Tour and the Japan Golf Tour), we need absolute certainty now in terms of accessibility to New Zealand and this is clearly not possible” said Hart.

“We would like to thank Millbrook Resort (the tournament underwriter), The Hills, our many commercial partners, both domestic and international, led by our presenting sponsor Sky Sport, Government and the Queenstown Lakes District Council for their support and understanding. Further thanks go to our Tour partners, New Zealand Golf, our professional players, our sold-out amateur field, and our amazing volunteer force.”

“This is not a decision we have made lightly, and we are particularly disappointed for the Queenstown region who have suffered many setbacks during this Covid-19 era.”

“We are very proud of what we have created with the New Zealand Open becoming one of New Zealand’s most recognised and applauded international sporting events.”

“We remain very committed to once again showcasing the very best of Queenstown and New Zealand in February 2022 at a time when hopefully we will all be operating in a more certain and safer environment” said Hart.

The cancellation of the New Zealand Open follows announcements in the past 10 days of the cancellation of Australia’s four major golf tournaments; the Australian Men’s Open, the Australian Women’s Open, the Australian PGA Championship, and the Victorian Open, all similarly planned for February 2021.

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Published on October 27, 2020

Sentosa, Singapore, October 27: The Asian Tour Annual General Meeting (AGM) took place today and saw a number of established and respected players join the Tournament Players’ Committee (TPC).

Australians Terry Pilkadaris and Travis Smyth, Berry Henson from the United States and Thailand’s Panuphol ‘Coconut’ Pittayarat have all become part of the committee.

They join existing members Indians Chiragh Kumar and Rahil Gangjee, Chinese Taipei’s Hung Chien-yao and Chan Shih-chang, and Filipino Angelo Que on the committee.

“We are delighted to welcome Terry, Travis, Berry and Panuphol to the Tournament Players’ Committee,” said Cho Minn Thant, Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer of the Asian Tour.

“They are all popular and experienced players who will serve the Tour well in their capacity as player representatives. Indeed, there was a tremendous air of positivity throughout the AGM and a sense of solidarity as we look to overcome a difficult season and move into 2021 with renewed vigor and confidence.”

This is the first time Pilkadaris, Smyth and Panuphol have joined the TPC, whereas Henson served once before.

The Asian Tour’s key decision-makers and stakeholders took part in what was the 16th staging of the AGM – which for the first time in its history was held online via Zoom conference.

India’s Shiv Kapur, Thailand’s Arnond Vongvanij and Marcus Both from Australia all retired from the TPC.

“We thank Shiv, Arnond and Marcus for their contributions over the years – their input has been invaluable in helping us make important strategic decisions,” added Cho.

The AGM saw a wide range of issues discussed, with announcements on the Tour’s next steps expected in due course.

Ends.


Published on October 21, 2020

In the second and final part of our feature on three-time Asian Tour winner Anthony Kang, the American talks about his famous victory at the Maybank Malaysian Open, swing fundamentals and his transition into TV land.

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA – FEBRUARY 15: Anthony Kang of USA poses with the trophy after winning the Final round of the 2009 Maybank Malaysian Open at Saujana Golf and Country Club on February 15, 2009 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

While Anthony Kang always looks back on his victory at Casino Filipino Philippine Open in 1999 as one of the great highlights of his career – because it was his maiden win – his triumph in Malaysia’s National Open 10 years later carries as much significance to him, and perhaps even more.

It is the manner of that win, which came down to a nail-biting finish, which is so important to him.

“At the Maybank Malaysian Open having a chance to hit my second shot on the par-five final hole of the tournament, the 72nd hole, and knowing if I pulled the shot off I was going to win the tournament was an incredible moment and experience.

“To me it is a rare occasion in golf to be in a position to hit that winning shot when the time is ticking off – it happens in other sports like American football, even soccer, or basketball or baseball. So I felt like it was that moment for me and to experience a moment like that, which all great players have – like Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson – I feel fortunate that at least in Malaysia that tournament provided me the opportunity to experience that moment and then fortunately to come out ahead on the right side of it.”

He birdied the 18th at Saujana Golf and Country Club to win by one from four players: England’s David Horsey and Miles Tunnicliff, Thailand’s Prayad Marksaeng and India’s Jyoti Randhawa.

It ended an eight-year title drought and as the event was jointly-sanctioned with the European Tour it secured him playing privileges there.

“As soon as I won, I called my brother and said do you want to come and caddie for me in Europe, because we are going to make millions!” said the American.

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA – FEBRUARY 15: Anthony Kang of USA in action during the Final round of the 2009 Maybank Malaysian Open at Saujana Golf and Country Club on February 15, 2009 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

He quickly points out that that did not come true but that the opportunity was the most important element.

He adds that his game was gathering momentum in the lead-up to Malaysia: “Before Malaysia, about two years prior to, I was playing pretty solid golf. I wasn’t hitting any wild shots. I was very consistent, week after week, and I was making putts. While I wasn’t contending very much, I still had a lot of top 10 to 20 finishes. I was loving it. I’d show up, play, make some money and sometimes have a chance to win. Week after week after week, everything was in the positive.”

Unfortunately, success at Saujana did not open the floodgates to more firsts. In fact, quite the opposite happened.

“My game started to go about one month after the Malaysian Open,” says Kang.

He remembers playing a practice tournament at the Ballantines Championship in Korea on Jeju Island with Ted Oh, Unho Park and Lam Chih Bing (his regular practice group) when things started to go wrong.

“On the eighth hole I hit this drive and it went six yards right and I couldn’t figure out why that shot happened and ever since that happened my game started to slowly erode. So every day after that I was trying to fix it – it was like that story of the kid in Amsterdam who is trying to plug the dam wall by plugging the leaks day after day.”

He feels it was his fundamentals and technique that let him down.

“My fundamentals were not very solid. I had a band aid week after week to make the ball go straighter. I was thinking if the ball went straight, whatever I was doing, that’s correct. As opposed to looking at the proper technique, proper sequence, proper timing.

“Back then the information was not available, the technology wasn’t there, the data wasn’t there, to say the swing has to be sequenced this way, the hips have to move this way – it was more trial and error. Back then it was legendary stories of Vijay Singh.

“That was the mentality I had. I needed to see the ball on the driving range going straight, didn’t matter what my swing felt or looked like.

“I think in the end having the lack of knowledge caught up to me.”

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA – FEBRUARY 15: Anthony Kang of USA celebrates after winning the Final round of the 2009 Maybank Malaysian Open at Saujana Golf and Country Club on February 15, 2009 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Kang jokes that it was missing cuts that led to opportunities working in television commentary but in the ensuing years he still went on to become one of the most successful players on the Asian Tour with over US$2 million in career earnings. He currently sits in 22nd position on the Career Earnings list.

He first got into commentary at the Indonesian Open in 2014, where Dominique Boulet – a key member of Asian Tour Media broadcast team – suggested he turn his hand to some on course commentary.

“I had just missed another cut and it was a televised event and Dom came into the clubhouse and he sat down with us and asked me if I wanted to go on the golf course tomorrow and do on-course commentary. And I looked at him and I thought that might be fun. Let me give it a go,” says Kang.

“I still find it extremely difficult. It is really difficult. But it was especially in the beginning. I remember that first time in Indonesia in the morning when I arrived, I looked at the amount of people who were there and the amount of equipment. It was all foreign to me, I had never seen anything like it. And my first thought was I don’t want to be the one guy who messes this up for everybody. The first time is what like I was a soldier and I had never had any weapons training and they gave me a rifle and told me to go out there and do your thing.”

Kang was on our television screens in September working for FOX Sports covering the US Open.

“I still get very nervous before the show starts, especially the five minutes before the show starts, and probably about five to 10 minutes into it. But once you get through that you start to get into the flow of things and relax. When they say it’s going to go live it gets your nervous energy up,” he says.

“It is a lot of hard work. You do a lot more than show up and answer questions. You have to do your prep work. You have to make sure you are prepared and that you have something relevant and then on top of it you have to follow the structure of the programme.”

Kang turns 48 in November and fully intends to play the senior circuit in two years time.

He will be exempt on the European Seniors Tour (now called the Legends Tour) thanks to his win in Malaysia and says: “I am going to give that a go because through that Tour there is a very, very small window that can lead you onto the Champions Tour in the US. It is a very small window. But because of that I am going to give it a go.”

He has come a long way since growing up in Seoul before emigrating with his family to Hawaii when aged 10, in 1982 – which is when he started playing golf.

“Nobody taught us, we just went out with my Dad and Mum and played. They just thought it would be a good idea for the family to spend time at the weekend,” he says.

He picked up the game like a natural and by 1990 a couple of colleges offered him a golf scholarship but he settled on Oregon States University.

Said Kang: “I thought Oregon would be better for my golf career.”

An understatement if ever there was one and probably the most important ‘club’ selection of his career.

 

 


Published on October 20, 2020

Thousand Oaks, California, October 20: Reigning Asian Development Tour (ADT) Order of Merit champion Naoki Sekito will head into this week’s ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP @ SHERWOOD in an upbeat mood, having put his game in good order for his PGA TOUR debut at the Sherwood Country Club.

The 23-year-old Japanese gained momentum from winning the Hiroden Open Golf tournament in Hiroshima last week, peaking just in time for the ZOZO Championship that is making a one-year move to the United States due to logistical issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sekito, who enjoyed two top-10 finishes in three starts on the Asian Tour earlier this season, will feature in the elite 78-man field headlined by defending champion Tiger Woods, Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama, Major champions Rory McIlroy and Collin Morikawa.

Asian Tour standouts Jazz Janewattananond and Gunn Charoenkul of Thailand, South African Shaun Norris, Australian Brad Kennedy as well as Mikumu Horikawa and Rikuya Hoshino of Japan will also tee up in the highly rated event that became the first ever PGA TOUR-sanctioned event in Japan last year.

Reigning Asian Development Tour Order of Merit champion Naoki Sekito of Japan

“I have been lucky to continue playing in Japan during these unprecedented times. I have been playing a mixture of local events in Hiroshima, as well as events on the Japan Tour and the AbemaTV Tour.

“I was fortunate enough to win an event in July and then another event last week. I am very honoured and thankful to receive a sponsor’s invite to play the ZOZO Championship,” said Sekito, whose brother Yuji, also a professional golfer, will be on the bag for him this week.

After turning professional in December 2017, Sekito plied his trade on the ADT before claiming his first professional victory in Malaysia in 2019. He would secure one more victory and five other top-10s to clinch the 2019 ADT Order of Merit crown, becoming the first ever Japanese to accomplish the feat on the region’s secondary circuit.

“My sponsors held a gathering for me in my hometown before I flew here and about 70 to 80 people whom I have known from a young age attended. It was nice to see all of them and I took the opportunity to thank them for helping me throughout my career. I also met the Mayor of my hometown which was very cool.”

“I am really excited about this week. I look forward to playing in the same tournament as Tiger and hopefully I can bump into him at the range or in the clubhouse,” added Sekito, who hails from Fukuyama, a city in Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan.

Woods, who won his record-tying 82nd PGA TOUR title at last year’s ZOZO Championship, will be back to defend against a field full of stars at the 72-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed course, one of his favourite hunting grounds where he had won his Hero World Challenge five times.

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Published on October 15, 2020

Thongchai Jaidee talks about his time on the Asian Tour and European Tour, breaking down barriers and being a role model for young Thai golfers. My Time is a documentary series in partnership with Rolex going in-depth into Asian Tour players careers.

Thai legend Thongchai hopes to inspire next generation – “In the future I really want to see the young Thai and Asian players perform better than Thongchai Jaidee. I want them to see that I started from nothing but I managed to get where I am today. I want to be their role model.”

 

Read more about Thongchai’s illustrious career here.


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Thai legend Thongchai Jaidee’s hole-in-one on the par-three 16th hole in the final round of the Carlsberg Malaysian Open, at Saujana Golf and Country Club, in 2004 is one of the greatest shots hit in the history of the Asian Tour.

And it helped launch the career of one of Asia’s greatest golfers.

Thongchai's ace at the Malaysian Open in 2004

Throwback to the time Thongchai Jaidee made an ace at the Malaysian Open ??⛳#BandarMalaysiaOpen2020 #BMO2020 #whereitsAT

Posted by Asian Tour on Tuesday, March 3, 2020

 

The Thai star had already triumphed five times on the Asian Tour before his victory in Malaysia but as the event was jointly-sanctioned with the European Tour it thrust him into the global spotlight for the first time.

The two shots he gained with that ace helped him to secure a two-shot win over Australian Brad Kennedy and it opened the door for him to access the top-tier of tournaments in the game.

“I felt very proud when I won, every golfer needs to experience this,” said Thongchai, in a recent interview with Asian Tour Media.

“If you win it will change your life. It changed my life.”

It meant he became the first player from Thailand to win on the European Tour and the seventh Asian.

“It was the biggest moment in my life. After that tournament I started being recognized as an Asian Tour golfer instead of merely a Thai golfer. Now I had opportunities to play in Europe, not just Asia,” he adds.

“It changed my life and I had to improve myself. And I had to work harder than ever before because the competition was tougher.”

The following year he successfully defended his Malaysian Open title but it would be some time before he emulated his success in Asia, in Europe.

He admits the weather in Europe was one of the biggest obstacles he had to overcome and that it took him two or three years to adjust.

In fact, it was eight years after his first win in Malaysia before he tasted success in Europe – at the ISPS Handa Wales Open in 2012.

NEWPORT, WALES – JUNE 03: Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand poses with the trophy after winning the ISPS Handa Wales Open on the Twenty Ten course at the Celtic Manor Resort on June 3, 2012 in Newport, Wales. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

And it was he clearly a taste he enjoyed and savoured as he went on to win the Nordea Masters in Sweden in 2014, the Porsche European Open in Germany in 2015 and the Open de France in 2016.

Thongchai, who turned 50 last year, has always been quick to credit his military background (he was a paratrooper in the Thai Rangers) for his success in the game.

He said: “I used to be in the army and that helped me a lot. It taught me patience, discipline and strength. As a soldier I had to train very hard.  So I took that mentality and translated it into my golf practice. It has made me a successful golfer.”

He also acknowledges it was not easy for him early on when he first started to think of making a living from the game.

“I never thought I would find a career in golf. At the beginning I was just a normal golfer. Back then playing professional golf was difficult,” he adds.

But his early concerns are now a very distant memory for a player who has claimed an unprecedented three Asian Tour Order of Merit titles, 13 Asian Tour victories and eight European Tour wins.

Thongchai with his wife Namfon when he won his first Order of Merit title in 2001.

“I want to set an example for the next generation,” said Thongchai.

“In the future I really want to see the young Thai and Asian players perform better than Thongchai Jaidee. I want them to see that I started from nothing but I managed to get where I am today. I want to be their role model.”

 

 


Published on October 13, 2020

The Asian Tour caught up with Anthony Kang recently to see how things have been for him since the world was turned on its head because of COVID-19. It proved to be a fascinating, funny and revealing conversation with the three-time Asian Tour winner – who is now part of the Tour’s highly-regarded broadcast commentary team. And because he had plenty to say we are telling the story over two parts – a front nine and a back nine of his career.

Anthony Kang has been at home in Portland, Oregon, since March – for reasons which probably don’t need too much explaining.

He had been working at the Bandar Malaysian Open in March and then headed to Thailand – where he got word that all countries were going to be in border lockdowns.

And rather than be in a foreign country with nothing to do he decided to get back home to Oregon, to help out with the family business: running a convenience store.

“Convenience stores are considered an essential business,” says Kang, “so it has not really affected us in terms of a daily routine, it is not like we have to stay at home and not move. We are doing the same things as we were doing two or three years ago.”

Remarkably, Kang has not played golf since missing the cut in the Sabah Masters in November last year and he also points out that there was a stretch last year when he did not play for eight months.

It is remarkable because the tall Korean American is only in his mid-40s and while he has one eye on the Seniors Tour, the other is looking back on a brilliant career on the Asian Tour which saw him win three times and earn over US$2 million in career earnings.

Anthony Kang lifting the Philippine Open trophy in 1999.

But the lack of playing time is not something that bothers the popular golfer, in fact it provides great insight to where he has been and where he is going.

“It has been progressing,” he says. “About three or four years ago I took a month off, came back and the next time was three months off, then eight months and now it has basically gone on about a year.”

He doesn’t mind it because he has experienced the hard grind of life on Tour and knows just how much hard work it takes to get to the top. He even admits that there was one point in the mid-2000s when he “fell out of love with the game because it started to feel like work” but thankfully he got over that.

He says that when he turned professional in 1996 his only motivation to play golf was to make a living and earn money.

“I thought if I put in the work here to get better at golf it returns to me in currency. And that is what drove me. It wasn’t about winning tournaments,” says Kang, who joined the Asian Tour the same year he turned professional.

And he admits that the early days on Tour were difficult.

“It was hard because like all struggling pros that doesn’t have a big pedigree coming out of the amateur game, like Tiger Woods, 95% of the guys out there are just grinding it out,” he says.

“In the beginning it was fun to travel the Tour because it was a new lifestyle, you get to travel to different places, experience different things and it was just fun but the bottom line was I had to penny pinch just like everybody else I was hanging out with.

“No matter how good a guy was, or how good his potential was, I have seen so many professional players that stop playing professional golf because they ran out of funds. Despite great talent, they don’t see a lucrative future ahead.”

But despite financial concerns those early years brought much joy.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – The USD $ 300.000 Panasonic Open India at the Delhi Golf Club, April 4-7, 2013, New Delhi, India. Picture by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour.

“The first three years it was just fun to be out there, it didn’t really matter how much money I was spending. I wasn’t extravagant spending money but it was just fun. In my early 20s going out to Asia. I’m thinking I wanna stay out here.”

However, after three years of limited success in Asia he was having serious doubts about continuing on as Tour professional.

But it was at that point, mid-way through 1999, that it all started to change for him and one of the really great stories of Asian golf was born.

He says: “I had started the year with four missed cuts in five events and the one I made I think I finished 50th or 60th and I told myself this is not really working out how you thought it would work out, spending so much money and making nothing and if you do make the cut you are making 200 or 300 dollars profit and thinking is this really worth it?”

He was heading to play in the Casino Filipino Philippine Open at Manila Southwoods Golf and Country Club in May – which was going to be the final tournament before the summer stretch, from May until August, when no events were played on the Asian Tour.

“I had fully planned on taking on a job in the summer time working so I thought to myself, while heading into Manila, there is no need to put pressure on yourself, just go out and enjoy it, who knows maybe you will come back out [to Asia] or maybe you won’t. This could be the last one, so just go out, just have fun and don’t have a miserable time out there. And then it turned out weird.”

It was weird because from nowhere he won the tournament in very unique circumstances. 

“I can’t pinpoint anything, besides fate and external forces,” he says.

“For my first two to three years I drove the ball well and I was a pretty mediocre long to mid-iron player but I was a decent wedge player and I could putt okay. And Manila Southwoods somehow fit into that category where if you drove the ball well then you were left with wedges and short irons, so you hit those well and make a couple of putts here and there and that’s kind of what happened.”

But there is also so much more to the story.

On the final day, he was at the hotel and went down to take the bus to the golf course but there was a notice saying the tee times were delayed two hours because of bad traffic going out to the golf course.

“And for the whole bus ride, for the life of me, I could not get rid of this song in my head which was ‘play that funky music white boy’ – it was in my head the whole ride. Why is it in my head I kept thinking?

“So we get to the golf course, and we start our round and we get to hole number six, the par four. Just over the wall on that hole there is a water park right outside and just before I hit my second shot (we were waiting for the green to clear) the song that starts blaring from the water park at that time was exactly the song that was in my head, ‘play that funky music white boy’!

“And at the moment I thought is this destiny? I was playing the second to the last group. I think I was two or three strokes off the lead. And I thought is this meant to be.”

He fired a brilliant 66 and won the tournament by one shot from South African James Kingston and Japan’s Kazuyoshi Yonekura.

But, whatever the circumstances, it was the big break he had been looking.

He explains: “I was planning to work and maybe even get away from the professional game after that week. But it allowed me to buy a membership at a golf course – the Badlands course in Las Vegas – instead of actually going to work.  So I was able to practice all summer long, instead of working.”

So he practiced there and returned to the Asian Tour a few months later a more confident player and a golfer still only really at the start of an epic career.

 

To be continued…