July 17: If there is one key takeaway from the first half of the 2017 Asian Tour season, it is that hard work and perseverance pay off.
The early season has seen the stellar rise of new winners who have taken years to win their first title as well as an equally resolute performance by veterans.
At the season-opening SMBC Singapore Open, the 50-year-old Prayad Marksaeng fended off stiff challenges from the region’s best players to win the prestigious title by a single shot and earning one of the highly sought after tickets to The Open.
The Thai was just eight days shy of his 51st birthday then, but proved that age was not a factor, adding another win to his nine Asian Tour crowns.
The subsequent two tournaments in Myanmar and Bangladesh soon saw the ascent of the young guns.
Australian Todd Sinnott secured a convincing victory at the Leopalace21 Myanmar Open barely two weeks after finishing second at the Asian Tour Qualifying School in January. In doing so, he became the second fastest rookie to win after England’s Chris Rodgers who won the 2006 Pakistan Open.
Young Thai Jazz Janewattananond then continued to put the spotlight on the emerging talents on the Asian Tour when he triumphed at the Bashundhara Bangladesh Open.
Having played on the Asian Tour since he was 14, the 21-year-old finally secured his first victory after years of hard work
“I have been waiting for this win for so long. It was just a huge relief I managed to get the job done. It wasn’t easy. I took a step back as I lost my card for the first time in my career last season. I didn’t make the mark at Qualifying School too. (With his win) I don’t have to worry about the rest of the season now,” said Jazz.
At the Maybank Championship which was co-sanctioned with the European Tour in February, 2014 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion, David Lipsky of the United States finished a shot back of Paraguayan champion Fabrizio Zanotti in second place.
Lipsky’s wait for his third Asian Tour title had to be prolonged as Zanotti staged a magnificent comeback to win the Championship after starting his final round six shots behind the leader.
From Malaysia to Perth, Australia, Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai was denied a grandstand finish by the brilliance of home favourite Brett Rumford, who beat him 2 and 1 in the gripping final of the ISPS HANDA World Super 6, which was the first event to revolutionise tournament golf with its exciting new format.
India’s S.S.P. Chawrasia became only the third player to make a successful defence of the Hero Indian Open since 1964 with his convincing seven-shot victory. His compatriot Shiv Kapur ended an 11 years and four months wait for a second Asian Tour title when he won the Yeangder Heritage which was the first Asian Development Tour (ADT) event to be upgraded to Asian Tour status.
“This win means a lot to me. It has been a frustrating last couple of years so it is nice to be back where I belong. It has been such a long wait but you tend to appreciate it more. You will have questions and doubts from yourself and other people but I answered those questions more to myself than anybody else with this win,” said Kapur.
At the Panasonic Open Japan, a co-sanctioned event with Japan Golf Tour, Japan’s Kenichi Kuboya delighted the local crowd by taking home the crown while Thailand’s Rattanon Wannasrichan also triumphed on home soil at his national Open.
Rattanon had already served his early intent with a stunning opening round 62 before he went on to complete a wire-to-wire victory at the Thailand Open, which was also the first leg of the newly-launched Panasonic Swing where the top three finishers will be rewarded with a bonus pool at the end of the season.
The Queen’s Cup saw yet another first-time Asian Tour winner in Malaysia’s Nicholas Fung, who nicked a timely victory on Father’s Day after 66 starts on the Asian Tour.
Prior to his breakthrough at the holiday isle of Samui in Thailand, Fung had agonizingly missed out on a grandstand finish, most notably on three occasions where he finished runner-up in Indonesia (2013), Singapore (2015) and the Philippines (2016).
“It’s a special gift for my father. He’s taught me a lot since I was young. He brought me to the golf course, taught me how to be a better golfer and how to be a confident person to face the future.
“I just followed his advice and thanks to him, he guided me all the way until today to win this tournament. I’m sure he’s very happy. We did it on the right day (Father’s Day),” said Fung.
“I have been waiting for this win for so long. It was just a huge relief I managed to get the job done. It wasn’t easy. I took a step back as I lost my card for the first time in my career last season. I didn’t make the mark at Qualifying School too. (With his win) I don’t have to worry about the rest of the season now.” – Jazz Janewattananond.
With a mix of familiar and newer talents, the Asian Tour promises to be THE place of exciting action especially with an upcoming schedule of events that covers the length and breadth of the world.