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HIE SEEKS HOME CHEER AT INDONESIAN MASTERS

Jakarta: Local prospect Rory Hie is eager to put on a heroic display at the star-studded Indonesian Masters next month.

Hie, the first Indonesian to earn his Asian Tour card in 2009, will lead the local charge to face world number two Lee Westwood of England, Thailand’s trailblazer Thongchai Jaidee and India’s rising star Gaganjeet Bhullar at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club from April 21 to 24.

The inaugural Indonesian Masters will become the newest Asian Tour tournament in 2011 with a lucrative prize fund of US$750,000.

Hie believes the Asian Tour’s involvement with professional golf in Indonesia is a massive boost for the development of the game and reckons Westwood’s star presence along with the cream of the crop from the Asian Tour will inspire many young golfers in the country.

“We have a lot of sponsors who are more interested in sponsoring golf tournaments now and this bodes well with the game in Indonesia. To have the world number two golfer play here is exceptional for the young players as well as the fans,” said the 22-year-old.

Hie hopes to put his course knowledge of the Royale Jakarta Golf Club to good effect and challenge for the Indonesian Masters title.

“I’ve been playing at the Royale Jakarta course and I find the greens to be quite tricky. But the more I practice there, the more comfortable I get. I’ve also been hitting the ball really well and that’s a great boost to my game,” he said.

Despite finishing outside the top-61 on the Order of Merit last season, Hie will still have playing opportunities on the Asian Tour this season through the country exemption category.

He missed six consecutive cuts last season but produced a sparkling performance at the end of the year when he placed tied 12th at the season-ending Black Mountain Masters, just four strokes from winner Tetsuji Hiratsuka of Japan.

“I changed my grip in the middle of last year and it worked wonders for me. I started playing more consistently and my last three tournaments were definitely the highlight. I’m hoping to maintain my momentum and if I play well maybe even win on the Asian Tour,” said Hie.

Hie played a practice round with three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington at the Iskandar Johor Open last year and he is now relishing the prospect of playing alongside Westwood.

“I learned a lot from playing with Padraig last year and it will be a dream come true if I get to play with Lee. I’m sure I’ll learn even more from him and that will be a bonus for my game,” he added.

The Indonesian Masters is earmarked to become the country’s foremost golf championship, with plans to raise its prize fund and attract other international stars to Indonesia in the coming years.

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