Bangkok, February 2: The Asian Tour’s 2010 season gets underway this week and it promises to showcase great golf, magical performances and worthy champions.
The third edition of the Asian Tour International, with a total prize fund of US$300,000, will enjoy the honour of raising the curtain for the new season at the Suwan Golf and Country Club starting on Thursday.
Title holder James Kamte of South Africa will defend his title against Asia’s top players including former number one Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand, Japan’s Daisuke Maruyama, Australian Marcus Both and Singaporean Mardan Mamat.
Over the next 11 months, the Tour will travel to as far as Switzerland for the Omega European Masters, co-sanctioned with the European Tour, and to the Far East in Japan for the Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open which is co-sanctioned with the Japan Golf Tour.
The Avantha Masters and Yeangder Tournament Players Championship will make their debuts in India and Chinese Taipei respectively while other new events in Malaysia and Singapore will be announced in the near future. The Air Bagan Myanmar Open presented by IBTC will also make a welcome return to the Schedule after a four-year lapse.
Kyi Hla Han, Executive Chairman, Asian Tour, said the new season promises to showcase Asian golf at its best through the staging of world-class events over the year.
“We are looking forward to another great season in 2010, starting with this week’s Asian Tour International. It is always special to start our year in Thailand which has unearthed great champions such as Thaworn Wiratchant, Thongchai Jaidee, Chapchai Nirat, Chinnarat Phadungsil and Prayad Marksaeng through the playing opportunities created on the Asian Tour,” said Han.
“We continue to receive strong support from our sponsors, partners, golf associations, regional PGAs and the players and will visit no fewer than 15 countries this season in our effort to maintain the growth of the game in Asia. It promises to be another exciting season for the Asian Tour with several new events on board.”
Han added that bringing in-house the television production and distribution functions will put the Asian Tour on a higher pedestal through an enhanced TV platform. Amongst others, the Asian Tour has struck broadcasting deals with Sky Sports in the United Kingdom, Viasat in Scandinavia, Fox Sports in Australia and leading regional broadcasters.
“As a player-led organisation, the Asian Tour is truly cosmopolitan as we represent players from 30 nationalities, including leading stars like Jeev Milkha Singh of India, Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand, Australian Scott Hend, Liang Wen-chong of China, Chinese Taipei’s Lin Wen-tang and Korea’s Bae Sang-moon.
“Many of our players are world-class and Yang Yong-eun’s breakthrough last year when he became Asia’s first Major champion will only open the floodgates for more Asian players to triumph in Major championships. His win will not be the only Major success by an Asian player,” Han predicted.
He expects the young guns such as Gaganjeet Bhullar and Anirban Lahiri of India, Korea’s Noh Seung-yul, Malaysia’s Shaaban Hussin, Australia’s Rick Kulacz and Darren Beck to stamp their mark and challenge the likes of reigning Asian Tour number one Thongchai and India’s Jyoti Randhawa for supremacy this season.
He believes that the established playing structure of the Asian Tour has proven to be successful in delivering the right platform for players to become world-class stars.
“Through our full-field events, our players have a strong schedule of events to hone their games and the reward of performing well will earn them opportunities to compete in the bigger events and co-sanctioned tournaments on our Schedule,” said Han.
“We only need to look at Thongchai who came through Qualifying School more than 10 years ago and has now become Asia’s most successful player. Last year, we welcomed eight first time winners and it shows that the pool of talent is deep in Asia.
“There is a career pathway for our players and the advent of the Asian Development Tour, which we launched in Myanmar last week, will also fit it nicely with this structure for players to advance in their careers,” he added.