Thongchai Jaidee's Wales conquest | Asian Tour

Thongchai Jaidee’s Wales conquest


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)

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