Changhwa, Chinese Taipei, June 21: Reigning Asian Development Tour (ADT) Order of Merit champion Johannes Veerman will be driven by his winning memories from last year when he defends his title against an elite field at the Taifong Open on Thursday.
The 25-year-old Texan emerged victorious in a sensational play-off duel against Chinese Taipei’s Wang Wei-lun at the highly-acclaimed Taifong Golf Course last year, lifting his maiden ADT title with his father on the bag and in what was his rookie season in Asia.
Veerman will headline the US$160,000 event, which is celebrating its fourth consecutive edition as the richest tournament on the ADT schedule, alongside compatriot and Order of Merit leader Brett Munson and Australian Martin Dive, placed second on the money list.
Malaysia’s Ben Leong, in-form Jakraphan Premsirigorn and Panuwat Muenlek of Thailand, ranked fourth, fifth and sixth respectively on the current money list, will also be out to lay their hands on the prestigious trophy when the tournament gets underway from June 22 to 25.
Veerman, who had previously lived in Asia for 14 years, enjoyed a superb rookie season in 2016, notching one victory and five other top-10s to win the ADT Order of Merit with a season’s haul of US$58,662.
He became the third American, following Jonathan Moore in 2011 and Casey O’Toole in 2015, to top the Merit rankings since the ADT was launched as a gateway to the premier Asian Tour in 2010.
“I am really excited to be back. It’s good to see all the familiar faces here again. My game’s feeling good. I had a lot of time-off to practise at home before coming back to Asia for the Queen’s Cup last week,” said Veerman, who turned professional in 2015.
Apart from topping the 2016 ADT rankings, Veerman also secured his 2017 Asian Tour card by breaking into top-60 on the 2016 Asian Tour Order of Merit. His success allowed the next best five players on the final ADT rankings to be rewarded with playing rights on the Asian Tour in 2017.
“It’s good to get into the competitive mindset ahead of this week’s title defence. The course is in a good shape. The weather seems much better too, compared to last year where we were affected by typhoon. I have a lot of good memories out there so I am really looking forward to this week,” Veerman added.
Dive, who has enjoyed one victory and two top-fives in four starts on the ADT so far this season, hopes to overcome a stiff back as he aims to close in on the Order of Merit lead with a strong showing in his Taifong Open debut. He trails leader Munson by about US$3,000 in second place.
“I have been feeling sick for the past few days and struggling with a bad back. Hopefully I can get better before the tournament starts tomorrow. I’ll just go out and do what I will do in other events and try to give myself some opportunities out there. It’s my first time in Chinese Taipei so I am excited and looking forward to this week,” said the 31-year-old Dive.
Asian Tour winner Lu Wei-chih hopes to turn his lacklustre season around with a good showing at the Taifong Open where he finished tied-third last season and won in 2007 on the domestic circuit before the tournament came on board the ADT in 2014.
“It’s always good coming back to Taifong Golf Course. I played well last year and I have won on this course before. It has been raining a lot last week so the course is pretty wet and playing longer. Short game will be key to score this week,” said the 38-year-old Lu.
Lu will spearhead the local challenge alongside six-time Asian Tour winner Lin Wen-tang, Lin Wen-ko and Hsieh Chi-hsien, all former champions on the region’s secondary circuit.
All ADT events are afforded with Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) status. The winner of the Taifong Open will take home a prize purse of US$28,000 and receive six OWGR points while the top-six players and ties earn points on a sliding scale.
For more information on the ADT, please visit www.asiandevelopmenttour.com.
About Asian Development Tour
The Asian Development Tour was launched in 2010 with the aim of creating a career pathway for professional golfers in Asia. Sanctioned by the Asian Tour, the Asian Development Tour will ultimately create a new playing platform for emerging stars from across Asia and around the world. Through the Asian Tour Qualifying School, players will qualify for the Asian Development Tour and enjoy the opportunity to hone their games and talent through a secondary circuit in Asia. Designed in the same structure as the Web.com Tour in America and European Challenge Tour, the Asian Development Tour is a stepping stone to the Asian Tour and the exciting world of international golf. The Asian Development Tour has been structured to ensure the best opportunities for its members. The leading five players on the Asian Development Tour will earn coveted Asian Tour cards for the following season, ensuring a proper career pathway for aspiring professionals. All ADT events receive Official World Golf Ranking points.