Thai legend Thongchai hopes to inspire next generation


Published on October 15, 2020

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.”

 

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