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Richard Karlberg’s commanding five-shot triumph at the SAIL Open in India has proven once again that the Asian Tour’s Qualifying School is a launch pad to success.
The rookie from Sweden joined a growing band of recent Q-School graduates such as Australian duo Andrew Dodt and Darren Beck, South African James Kamte, Korea’s Noh Seung-yul and Malaysian Ben Leong who have secured victories on the Asian Tour, which is the official sanctioning body for professional golf and the only player-led organisation in the region.
The 24-year-old survived the grueling stage one of Qualifying School in Thailand in January before finishing tied 18th in the all-important Final Stage to secure his Tour card.
With his convincing triumph in India, he has now earned a priceless winner’s exemption until the end of 2012 and will have access into all of the biggest Asian Tour tournaments, including the co-sanctioned events with the European Tour.
“I feel so awesome. This win means a lot to me because I get to play more tournaments on the Asian Tour. It feels like a new door has opened and that feels really great,” said Karlberg.
“I did not expect to win. You set goals for the year and after I got my Asian Tour card, I was just aiming to get into the top-60 (which allows players to retain their full playing rights for the following season).”
After turning professional in 2006, he became an instant hit in his native Sweden by winning the domestic Order of Merit in 2007. He ventured onto the European Challenge Tour before deciding to switch his focus onto the Asian Tour, regarded as the third largest Tour in the world behind the PGA Tour and European Tour.
He certainly has no regrets now. “I played on the Challenge Tour after winning the Order of Merit in Sweden and there are many young talents there. But on the Asian Tour, there are at least 10 world-class players playing in every tournament and to win here is just great. I’m looking forward to playing more in Asia,” said Karlberg.
A winner’s cheque of US$47,550 lifted Karlberg to 13th place on the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit with total earnings of US$55,000.
India’s Shiv Kapur, who finished second on his home course, moved up to 24th position thanks to winnings of US$32,550 while compatriot Jyoti Randhawa, who was third last week, moved up to 15th position with his season’s haul of US43,410.
Dodt, winner of the Avantha Masters in India earlier in the season, heads the rankings with US$360,192, followed by Maybank Malaysian Open champion Noh Seung-yul of Korea on US$346,667. Korean star K.J. Choi is third on US$222,220 while burly Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat is fourth on US122,717.
The Asian Tour moves to the Air Bagan Myanmar Open presented by IBTC at the Pun Hlaing Golf Club this week.
The US$300,000 event, which starts on Thursday, is making a comeback after a four-year hiatus and will be headlined by Dodt, Kiradech, American Jason Knutzon, Japanese star Tetsuji Hiratsuka and India’s Rahil Gangjee and Gaganjeet Bhullar, who are all ranked inside the top-10 of the Order of Merit.
Other stars competing in Yangon include Thai veteran Boonchu Ruangkit, who has won his last three tournaments on the European Senior Tour, compatriots Prayad Marksaeng and Chapchai Nirat, Chinese Taipei’s Lin Wen-tang, who was second on the Order of Merit in 2008, Hideto Tanihara of Japan, Lam Chih Bing of Singapore and Australian Scott Hend, who has finished top-five in the Order of Merit over the past three seasons.
Order of Merit – Top 20
Pos Name Earnings (US$)
1. Andrew DODT (AUS) 360,192
2. NOH Seung-yul (KOR) 346,677
3. K.J. CHOI (KOR) 222,220
4. Kiradech APHIBARNRAT (THA) 122,717
5. Rhys DAVIES (WAL) 118,557
6. Tetsuji HIRATSUKA (JPN) 117,363
7. Jason KNUTZON (USA) 880,28
8. Rahil GANGJEE (IND) 718,56
9. Gaganjeet BHULLAR (IND) 70,320
10. Angelo QUE (PHI) 56,964
11. LAM Chih Bing (SIN) 56,679
12. Thongchai JAIDEE (THA) 55,000
13. Richard KARLBERG (SWE) 48,450
14. CHAN Yih-shin (TPE) 44,638.27
15. Jyoti RANDHAWA (IND) 43,410
16. Darren BECK (AUS) 42,650
17. Thaworn WIRATCHANT (THA) 41,320
18. Chapchai NIRAT (THA)  41,255
19. S.S.P. CHOWRASIA (IND) 37,790
20. Hideto TANIHARA (JPN) 37,114

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