June 2021 | Asian Tour

Hoshino leads US Open bid


Published on June 16, 2021

In-form Rikuya Hoshino from Japan ‒ currently riding high on top of the Money List in Japan ‒ is one of four Asian Tour members who will compete in this week’s US Open, which tees-off tomorrow at Torrey Pines in California.

He is joined by countryman Yosuke Asaji, Australian Wade Ormsby, and Johannes Veerman from the Unites States.

Hoshino, who like Aasji and Veerman made it through tough US Open final qualifiers, has been on fire this year having tasted victory twice on the Japan Golf Tour Organization: first in the Kansai Open Golf Championship, in April, and then the following month’s Asia-Pacific Diamond Cup Golf.

The Japanese star also claimed the Fujisankei Classic in September last year, an event part of the 2020/2021 schedule in Japan, and currently leads Japan’s Money List with winnings of ¥68,413,107 (approx. US$621,389)

He starts at 2.09 pm (local time) on tee 10 with American Brendon Todd and Sebastian Munoz from Columbia, while Asaji also begins on 10 at 6:56 am with Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas and England’s Marcus Armitage.

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 15: Rikuya Hoshino of Japan plays a shot from the first bunker during a practice round prior to the start of the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course on June 15, 2021 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Ormsby, playing in his second US Open (he missed the cut in 2017), tees-off on the 10th at 12:30 pm with Canadian Taylor Pendrith and David Coupland from England.

He got into the event by virtue of leading the Asian Tour Order of Merit.

Veerman starts on the first at 2.31pm with Americans John Huh and Zack Sucher.

This year marks the 121st edition of the USGA’s flagship event ‒ which boasts an overall purse of US$12,500,000, with the winner earning US$2,250,000.

American Bryson DeChambeau is the defending champion and has been paired with Japan’s Masters winner  Hideki Matsuyama at 1.14 pm on hole one.

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 14: Phil Mickelson of the United States plays his shot from the 15th tee as Bryson DeChambeau of the United States looks on prior to the start of the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course on June 14, 2021 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Six-time runner-up in this event Phil Mickelson from the United States, who became the oldest Major winner at the age of 50 when he won the US PGA Championship in May, starts his latest bid to complete the career Grand Slam at 7.51 am.

The left hander, who celebrates his 51st birthday on the eve of the tournament, is playing with fellow Americans Xander Schauffele and Max Homa.

ENDS


Published on June 15, 2021

It has been an historic year so far for Asian golf following Hideki Matsuyama’s win at The Masters and more recently Yuka Saso’s victory at the US Women’s Open.

In April, Matsuyama became the first golfer from Japan to don a Green Jacket while this month Saso achieved the huge honour of becoming the first Filipino to win a Major.

And the fact that Saso’s father is Japanese meant it was also a win win for the Land of the Rising Sun.

While we hope to see more success by players from Asia at this week’s US Open, the Major has proven to be the more difficult to get to grips with by players from this region.

But as historians of golf know, it is another Japanese golfer who has the distinction of registering the best finish by an Asian golfer in the prestigious US event.

In 1980, at the 80th US Open, Japan’s Isao Aoki came close to pulling off one of the biggest upsets in the history of golf when he went head-to-head with America’s “Golden Bear”  Jack Nicklaus and nearly prevailed.

At Baltusrol Golf Club, near New York, Nicklaus set a new tournament scoring record and won his fourth U.S. Open title, but Aoki took much of the glory thanks to a brave performance that saw him finish two-shots behind in second place.

Isao Aoki of Japan. (Photo by Brian Morgan/Getty Images)

The two played all four rounds together in almost Matchplay like conditions, in what became known as the “Battle of Baltusrol”.

Nicklaus, aged 40 years old, and his countryman Tom Weiskopf began the tournament by firing seven-under-par 63s in the first round on the Lower Course.

After a second round 71, Nicklaus had a two-stroke lead over Aoki, but the Japanese star carded a third consecutive round of 68 the following day to tie Nicklaus and set up a thrilling final round.

On that Sunday, Nicklaus birdied the third after Aoki recorded a bogey on two, taking a two-shot lead.

Nicklaus was then expected to run away with the tournament but found it nearly impossible to shake off Aoki.

The American hit his approach to three feet on 10 to set up a birdie, but Aoki countered with a long putt from the fringe for a birdie. And on the 17th Nicklaus holed a 22-footer for birdie but again Aoki rose to the challenge and made his own from five feet.

UNITED STATES – MARCH 19: Isao Aoki and Jack Nicklaus during the 58th Senior PGA Championship held at the PGA National Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. April 17-20, 1997. (photograph by The PGA of America). (Photo by Montana Pritchard/PGA of America via Getty Images)

And as if to make sure of getting the job done, Nicklaus rolled in another birdie putt on 18 from 10-feet to win the championship and his 16th major title as a professional.

“I kept telling myself no matter how perfect he is, he will make a mistake in 72 holes in four days,” said a 39-year-old Aoki that week. “But I was wrong. Jack did not make any errors until the end of the tournament.”

“It has been a very good lesson. I learned a lot for my future play.”

To this day it remains the best finish by an Asian in the US Open ‒ slightly better than that of TC Chen’s joint runner-up finish in 1985.

It was also to be Aoki’s best-ever finish in a Major championship.

Finishing second was a rarity for Aoki during an illustrious career: he triumphed 51 times in Japan, where he topped the Money List in 1976, 1978, 1979, 1980 and 1981.

But he also tasted success overseas, most notably winning the Hawaiian Open in 1983 ‒ becoming the first player from Japan to win on the PGA Tour, where he played for over two decades. And in 1978 he claimed the World Match Play Championship in England, which was one of the biggest tournaments in the game at the time.

Fittingly, Aoki now serves as Chairman of the Japan Golf Tour Organization, helping to nurture his nation’s stars of the future and groom future US Open champions.


Published on June 14, 2021

Korean star Joohyung Kim won the prestigious SK Telecom Open at the weekend on home soil, for his second KPGA title ‒ remarkably, just a week before he turns 19.

He shot a three-under-par 68 at Pinx Golf Club for a tournament total of 14-under 270 and a three-stroke victory over compatriot Baekjun Kim, who closed with a 67.

The win comes almost exactly a year after Joohyung Kim claimed his first Korean title at the KPGA Gunsan Country Club Open – which saw him become the youngest winner on that circuit at the age of 18.

“I still can’t believe it,” said Joohyung Kim.

“After winning the KPGA Gunsan CC Open last year, things did not really work out well. In the United States, we did not get the results we were looking for, and this year we were only runner-up twice. So, I am really happy now.”

His victory last year saw him move inside the top-100 on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) and earn a place in the US PGA Championship – where he made his Major debut.

He is one of the most exciting teenagers in the world of golf. In 2019 after earning a battlefield promotion from the Asian Development Tour by claiming three events, the teen titan made an instant impact by winning in just his third start on the Asian Tour at the Panasonic Open in India. That made him the second youngest professional to win on the Asian Tour at 17 years and 149 days ‒ countryman Seungyul Noh is the youngest having won the 2008 Midea China Classic at the age of 17 years and 143 days.


Published on June 11, 2021

As the Tokyo Olympics approach, to help whet your appetite, Robin Bose from thegolfinghub.com, in India, spoke to Indian stars Anirban Lahiri and SSP Chawrasia about their memories of Rio in 2016 ‒ when golf returned to the summer Olympics after 112 years.

Golf was making a comeback to the Olympics in 2016 after a long gap, and the enthusiasm had rubbed off on all the stakeholders. But sport can be unpredictable and that finds no better expression than in Anirban Lahiri’s debut at the Rio Games.

Raised in an Army household, Lahiri was excited at the prospect of turning out in Indian colours. An integral part of the PGA Tour by now, helped by a joint fifth finish at the 2015 PGA Championship, the icing for him was partnering SSP Chawrasia. The two have engaged in iconic duels at the Hero Indian Open and spent time on the Asian Tour and European Tour. So, Rio was being looked at as one more contest with “deep and technical discussions on the short game” by the sidelines.

Since Lahiri knew for a while that he would play, the build-up to the Olympics was good. He finished runner-up to Chawrasia at the Indian Open and enjoyed a joint sixth placing on the PGA Tour. Missing the cut at the US Open wasn’t a dampener as Lahiri opened well at The Open Championship. He looked good for a strong finish but a shoulder injury going into Sunday at Royal Troon triggered a phase of “not so good golf”.

Martin Kaymer of Germany and Lahiri walk on the second hole during the first round of men’s golf on Day 6 of the Rio 2016 Olympics at the Olympic Golf Course on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Lahiri wasn’t ready for competition, and proof was the missed cut at the PGA Championship. The strain of playing across America, Europe and Asia was showing, and led to the tough call of cutting down on tournaments in the coming seasons. Next up were the Olympics but there was no time to name a replacement because of visa restrictions and other paperwork.

Trying to get the best out of a tired body wasn’t the only challenge, wading through official red tape was another mountain to climb. The swing compromised due to the injury and the feel of his driver not right, Chawrasia came to the rescue by offering a spare club. Even then, Lahiri felt the heat and by the second day could not keep pace with the intensity.

As a proud Indian that is a regret and Lahiri is hopeful he gets a chance to complete “unfinished business and set the record straight” in another edition of the Olympics.

The memories outside competition were opposite to what transpired on the golf course. Seated next to Michael Phelps at dinner was memorable but equally inspiring was the story of the Indian judoka and wushu player Lahiri interacted with closely. “It made me realise how tough it is to pursue their love and getting to the Olympics is an achievement in itself. Golf figures way down in the list of disciplines, these guys are even lower down in the order. It was saddening but the struggle is inspiring,” said Lahiri.

Lahiri watches his tee shot on the 16th hole during the second round of the golf on Day 7 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Golf Course on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Rio, SSP and a new love

Like Lahiri, Chawrasia was fearful of not turning up at Rio in the best shape. It was the week of the Irish Open and discomfort in the C4, C5 and C6 discs prevented him from going through with the full swing. The pain was such that Chawrasia even contemplated pulling out of the following week’s BMW PGA Championship.

Timely advice from the European Tour doctor helped him get in touch with a neurosurgeon and the shot of cortisone worked like magic. Within half an hour, he could go through with the full practice swing. From pulling out to T27 on that Sunday, that was some progress. More than the pay cheque, it was relief. “I had to play the Olympics, else there would have been a lifelong regret,” said Chawrasia.

The fatigue of the long flight from Kolkata to Rio got washed away the moment he entered the Games Village. “There was so much of positive energy; it had to be experienced to be believed.” Chawrasia finished T50, seven rungs ahead of Lahiri, and though the final day 78 rankles, playing alongside Sergio Garcia stands out.

Through the week, friendships were struck that cut across sport and have stood the test of time. Sharing the three-bedroom apartment with Lahiri and a towering 6’3” judoka, the friendly banter in the evening is recounted with fondness.

SSP in action during Round 4 at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 14 August 2016. Photo: Soeren Stache/dpa | usage worldwide (Photo by Soeren Stache/picture alliance via Getty Images)

But the biggest takeaway for Chawrasia from Rio was junking tea and embracing coffee. The unavailability of tea in the 24×7 food tent had Chawrasia reaching out for coffee. Growing up in Kolkata, tea was his staple beverage but in light of its non-availability and the affinity for caffeine had Chawrasia making the switch. He started by adding a dollop of milk but the aroma of the coffee beans grew on him quickly and since then it has been two cups of black coffee a day.

What is missed is the unmistakable taste of Brazilian coffee and Chawrasia is still on the lookout as he traverses through Europe and Asia in search of his next international title.

 

 


Published on June 9, 2021

Rory Hie says he is back to 100% fitness after a series of troublesome injuries played havoc with his game following his historic win in the 2019 Classic Golf and Country Club International Championship, in India ‒ which saw him become the first Indonesian to win on the Asian Tour.

“My game is a lot better, this time off Tour has been very beneficial for me,” said the 32-year-old ‒ soon to be featured in the latest series of the Asian Tour’s Life on Tour video blogs.

He was nursing a right wrist before and during his win in India ‒ impressively, and despite the ailment, achieved wire to wire ‒ and then shortly after that injury started to clear up, the pain and discomfort bizarrely shifted to his left thumb.

“You can see in the pictures of me winning in India, there is strapping on my right wrist. Not long after that, at the Thailand Open I picked up a problem with my thumb; I thought ‘what the heck is wrong with my thumb?’ It lasted two or three months; it was a real pain to deal with, and I was going to see the physio a lot,” he said.

He thinks the problem with the wrist was the result of over exerting himself in the gym, while the thumb predicament probably came about after hitting too many practise balls off a wet mat in Jakarta.

“In Thailand, I could not really hold the club at the top of the back swing, and after that it got worse and worse, and we tried all sorts of things to fix it, but I really needed a long break,” said the Indonesian.

Hie poses with the trophy after winning the Classic Golf and Country Club International Championship at Classic Golf and Country Club on September 15, 2019 in Gurgaon, India. (Photo by Arep Kulal/Asian Tour/Asian Tour via Getty Images)

“We had tried ice, massages, we taped it up so I looked like a mummy because at one point I had tape on my right wrist and left thumb. It was pretty bad, I tried to play with a thumb brace at one point. It wasn’t a good way to try and play tournaments. Also, I could not really practice.”

But he soon got his wish for a break when the coronavirus pandemic hit so abruptly and unexpectedly in 2020.

The ensuing long-layoff and, as he is quick to point out, applying the anti-inflammatory spray Perskindol ‒ which he picked up at the Malaysian Open in March, just before the pandemic stopped play on Tour ‒ saw the injury clear up.

“Now, I am back pretty much back 100%, except for a minor eye infection at the moment,” joked Hie, who now plays and practices at Sentul Highlands Golf Club, just outside Jakarta.

He has only played one event since that Malaysian Open ‒ a two-round local event this year ‒ but as well as healing physically, he feels the time off has helped him get on course mentally.

“This period of time off has given me a better understanding of what I need to do, and how I can improve. I don’t expect much in terms of events whether locally or on the Asian Tour this year. We might not have tournaments until next year, maybe. But at the same time I feel it is a good opportunity to get to the level I want to.

“I have the time now to prepare myself. I feel like my game is already in good shape. If it takes a longer time for tournaments to come back, then that is fine. I feel like I am improving almost every day.

“I have also been studying my game a lot. I was looking at my old swing 10 years ago and I was really different. I have been looking at the bio-mechanics of the golf swing and studying the players I like on Tour, more on the biomechanics side through 3D images, and I figured out a lot of stuff, it made a lot of sense to me.”

Hie celebrates after the final round of the Classic Golf and Country Club International Championship at Classic Golf and Country Club on September 15, 2019 in Gurgaon, India. (Photo by Arep Kulal/Asian Tour/Asian Tour via Getty Images)

Hie also got into trading on the Indonesian market during lockdown, he says:  “It was hard at the beginning and I quickly lost a lot of money. I was like ‘what the heck’. But I made it all back by January. It was fun.”

And he also appeared in some television adverts for the first time: for UC 1000 water and also K-Link Products.

He adds” “That is something I would not normally have time to do, so it’s helped me keep things very positive.”

 

 

 


Published on June 7, 2021

Japan’s Ryosuke Kinoshita broke through on the Japan Golf Tour on Sunday, claiming his first professional win in eight years with a five-shot victory at the Japan Golf Tour Championship Mori Building Cup Shishido Hills.

The 29-year-old Kinoshita, an Asian Tour member who enjoyed two top-10 finishes in Singapore and New Zealand early last year, took home a winner’s prize purse of approximately US$274,000 and won himself a BMW X5 xDrive35d M Sport following his triumph.

“It took me so long to grab my first win. I have failed to win so many times. I got anxious again today, but thanks to all of the fan’s cheers, I was able to make this happen,” said Kinoshita, who has also earned a five-year exemption on the JGTO and a ticket to the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.

The victory will be a confidence boost for Kinoshita when he makes his Major debut at The Open next month. He earned the coveted spot, thanks to his tied-sixth place result at the SMBC Singapore Open in January 2020.

“Compared to the star players who are around my age, such as Hideki Matsuyama and Ryo Ishikawa, I am way behind. But I will add on more victories and try to catch up to them as fast as I could,” Kinoshita added.

(From left) Korea’s Joohyung Kim, Thailand’s Poom Saksansin, Richard T. Lee of Canada and Ryosuke Kinoshita of Japan are the four players to qualify for The Open at the 2020 SMBC Singapore Open.


Published on

Black Mountain Golf Club joined Asian Tour Destinations – the exclusive network of golf clubs with direct ties to the Asian Tour – in August last year and so we felt it an opportune time to catch up with Harald Elisson, their General Manager, to find out how things are at Hua Hin’s preeminent golfing venue.

Q. Harald, it has been a difficult 2020 and 2021 for everyone in the golf industry. How have things been at Black Mountain Golf Club?

Yes, it has been a challenging time but we are weathering the storm well. I am delighted to say, as we speak, even though some things are closed during another period of restrictions, the golf course, driving range and restaurant are open – no alcohol sales allowed, of course.

Obviously, we are dependent on tourism, but international visitors are practically non-existent at-the-moment. Normally we would welcome visitors from Scandinavia, the UK, Germany and Switzerland but nobody wants to go through quarantine if they are on vacation. November to March would normally be our busiest period, but the numbers were drastically down last year.

However, on a more positive note we have been very encouraged by the relatively high traffic of visitors from Bangkok at the weekends – domestic tourism during the pandemic has been surprisingly good.

And, despite everything, we have been able to sell real estate as people are still moving here.

Harald Elisson, General Manager, Black Mountain Golf Club

Q. Black Mountain is a wonderful golfing oasis. Can you run through everything you have on site and explain the concept behind the project.

Everything here is under the Black Mountain umbrella. It’s all one golf community and obviously the heart of the whole project is the golf course. We have a wealth of real estate –with condominiums and houses – which continue to grow; we keep building more and selling more. As I said before, even now in the pandemic we keep getting new owners for houses and condos with people moving here, and we keep building new ones as well. Most of the condos are now sold. We have 76 condos and about 100 houses (60 residential and 40 resort villas which operate as a hotel): the condos are two or three bedrooms, while the villas are two to four bedrooms, so there are quite big variety of sizes.

And, of course, we have so many facilities: the water park is probably the main one and there is also a sports area with tennis and volleyball courts.

Guests staying on site have preferential treatment for all facilities.

Q. How does one become a member of the golf club?

A key part of the whole concept here is that golf membership comes with the real estate – all of which overlooks the golf course. The concept is that we only sell memberships to property owners; everyone who is a member lives on site. This has been the plan from the beginning, and it has been very successful. We wanted to create a special and unique atmosphere for the members.

Scott Hend of Australia celebrates with the trophy after claiming victory during the final round on day four of the Thailand Classic at Black Mountain Golf Club on March 13, 2016 in Hua Hin, Thailand. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Q. Where do your residents come from?

In the beginning, as this is a Swedish investment, it was very heavily influenced by Swedish buyers but over the years it has diversified.

It is now mostly Europeans, Americans and Australians and of course some from Asia. It is very much a mix, but I would say 40% are Scandinavians.

Early on most were buying as a second home but now people are living here on a more permanent basis. We have an international school on site – not owned by Black Mountain  but it is located here: so that is a big thing and means a lot of families have moved here. The school is from early years up to secondary.

Q. Last year you became part of the Asian Tour Destinations network. The Tour is excited to have you on board. What is Black Mountain hoping to achieve with this tie up?

Well, let me start by saying that we have been close to Asian Tour going back to when we started the project over a decade ago.

And, of course, we have hosted many Asian Tour events but by becoming part of Asian Tour Destinations we hope to further grow the relationship through brand association, cross marketing and more importantly furthering ties with the other golf clubs who are part of the network.

Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand tees off on the 1st hole during the Pro-am event of the Black Mountain Masters at Black Mountain Golf Club on December 15, 2010 in Hua Hin, Thailand. (Photo by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour/Asian Tour via Getty Images)

And we are already seeing some early benefits of this association – even though it has been difficult to move forward with many things because of the pandemic.

The practice facilities are very popular here, they are in very good shape all year round, so we have already seen some Asian Tour members here practicing and we look forward to welcoming more.

Their presence is great for our residents; it helps elevate the overall atmosphere on site, unlike few other golfing properties.

Q. On that note, you have a number of high-profile professionals associated with Black Mountain. Who are they and what is the relationship?

I am delighted to say that all the professionals are actually residents at Black Mountain.

Thongchai Jaidee and Jazz Janewattananond – both former Asian Tour number ones – and other Asian Tour winners Berry Henson and Simon Yates own property here, as do Johan Edfors and Rikard Karlberg – both winners on the European Tour.

As with the Asian Tour members practising here, having this calibre of professionals live and play in and around the community is a wonderful feature.

General view of the 2nd green during the third round of the 2016 True Thailand Classic at Black Mountain Golf Club on March 12, 2016 in Hua Hin, Thailand. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Q. As you mentioned earlier, your venue is synonymous with hosting world-class tournaments. What has been the objective behind this, and will we see more Asian Tour events there in the future, when conditions permit?

We knew in the beginning we wanted to stage Tour events, and that came to fruition very quickly when we hosted the Black Mountain Masters in 2009 and 2010, when Johan (Edfors) and Tetsuji (Hiratsuka) won respectively.

In addition to the Black Mountain Masters we also held the Thailand Classic, King’s Cup, and Royal Trophy here.

Essentially, hosting tournaments of this scale has been one of the main ways of marketing this whole project. The live television element is the perfect way to promote our property.

So, tournaments have really helped put us on the map and we have been really happy with the results. Certainly, we intend to host more in the future.

Johan Edfors of Sweden, defending champion, relaxes at his golf course villa after a practice round for the Black Mountain Masters at Black Mountain Golf Club on December 14, 2010 in Hua Hin, Thailand. (Photo by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour/Asian Tour via Getty Images)


Published on June 4, 2021

Former Asian Tour number one Juvic Pagunsan says more “focus” and “mental strength” were the factors behind his popular victory last Sunday in the Gate Way To The Open Mizuno Open – surprisingly, his maiden win in Japan after a decade of trying, and, perhaps even more notably, his first triumph on one of the region’s main Tours since claiming the Pertamina Indonesia President Invitational on the Asian Tour in 2007.

“I had been practicing very hard and trying to really focus on my game,” said the Filipino, whose victory also earned him a berth in this year’s Open Championship field at Royal St George’s, July 15-18.

“I was a little bit worried that I would never win again, but I kept practicing, playing and working on getting mentally stronger, that is why I was able to win again.”

Juvic celebrates his birdie on the 18th hole during the third and final round of the Barclays Singapore Open at the Sentosa Golf Club on November 13, 2011 in Singapore, Singapore. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Since turning professional 15 years ago the Filipino star has recorded eight runner-up finishes on the Asian Tour and seven on the Japan Golf Tour Organization – an impressive track record, even though it is void of titles.

One of those second placed finishes came in the Barclays Singapore Open in 2011, where he was beaten by Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, aka “Gonzo”, in that famous sudden-death play-off that had to be completed on Monday morning. Although disappointed to lose, Pagunsan was consoled by earning a cheque for US$666,660 – which helped him secure the Asian Tour Order of Merit title.

But at the age of 43 many thought Pagunsan had missed the boat on another victory.

The Filipino – who is also a two-time winner on the Asian Development Tour – is philosophical about it.

“If the tournament is yours, it is yours, but if it is not, it’s not, but if you still keep playing you have a chance to win,” he says.

“It is nearly 11 years in Japan right now and I always came up second but last week I broke that curse and I did it, I finally won.

“Hopefully I can win again, every year, and every tournament I keep positive.”

Juvic poses with the winning trophy at the end of the final round of Pertamina Indonesia President Invitational Golf Tournament at the Damai Indah Golf and Country Club in Tangerang, on the outskirts of Jakarta, 28 October 2007. AFP PHOTO/Bay ISMOYO (Photo credit should read BAY ISMOYO/AFP via Getty Images)

Remarkably, he marched to victory last weekend carrying his own clubs (partly due to COVID-19 restrictions) as: “I didn’t have a private caddie and I didn’t want to use the push carts.”

It was the third time this year he had carried his bag in Japan, but whereas on the two previous occasions he lugged a full set, this time he felt it best to make his bag lighter and carry 11 clubs (legally you are allowed to carry 14).

He added: “I am getting older and the last two times with 14 clubs were really heavy. I don’t like to use the electric carts, since you have to go all the way around the greens.”

Out went his three, four, six, and eight irons and in came a 19-degree utility club, four wedges and a winners’ cheque for  ¥12,000,000 (US$109,304) – elevating his career earnings in Japan to ¥237,625,768 (US$2,163,489).

As for his trip to the Open he says:

“I have had a lot of experience playing links golf. I actually made the cut the first time I played the Open (he finished tied 72nd in 2012 at Royal Lytham & St Annes). But missed the cut in 2014 (at Royal Liverpool). I will try and draw on those experiences when I play this year.”

ENDS


Published on June 3, 2021

When Thongchai Jaidee turned professional in 1999 – to much fanfare following an all-conquering amateur career – the last thing on his mind would have been the distant and ancient land of Wales.

But 13 years after joining the ranks of play-for-pay – and indeed on this day in 2012 – it was there, at the ISPS Handa Wales Open, that he recorded what is considered to be one of the greatest victories by an Asian golfer.

Thongchai had already claimed four European Tour events up until that point, but they were all joint-sanctioned events in Asia.

Whether he was able to transfer that kind of form onto European soil, where conditions were vastly different, was an unknown variable.

Thongchai poses with the trophy after winning in Wales (Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images)

However, in the summer of 2012, Thongchai – who was 42 years old at the time – silenced any doubters when he overcame a star-studded field at a wet and windy Celtic Manor Resort – the venue for another closely fought European win at the Ryder Cup just two years earlier.

The Thai golfer closed with a one-over-par 72 for a six under total and a one-stroke victory over Dane Thomas Björn, Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño, Dutchman Joost Luiten and South African Richard Sterne.

“I want to say thank you to all my family, all the supporters and the sponsors here,” he said.

“Conditions were quite tough for me.

“I tried to hit everything on the fairway – that’s the main thing – then hit the ball on the green. It was very, very tough for me, not like Thailand!”

The victory also meant he became the first player from Thailand to win in Europe.

Thongchai celebrates with his caddie (Photo by AMA/Corbis via Getty Images)

The former paratrooper, world ranked 199, led by one overnight, but fell one behind after running up a double-bogey seven at the ninth.

But with typical Thongchai bravado he made three birdies in rapid-fire succession from the 10th and another on the 15th to seize control.

That gave him the luxury of being able to bogey the 16th and 18th and still take the £300,000 first prize.

At the time it was his 16th win as a professional and he could have been forgiven for sitting back and resting on his laurels but the win in Wales proved to be the first of many European conquests.

He went on to win four more titles in Europe to help cement his position as one of the greatest golfers produced by the Asian Tour.

Thongchai tees off on the 18th hole during the final round. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)