Sentosa, Singapore December 15: A Tour card is undoubtedly a pathway for success on the Asian Tour, but it is not the be-all and end-all, evident from the achievements of many golfers who did not earn exempt status for 2017.
Currently, there are 16 players in the top-61 of this year’s Asian Tour Order of Merit who progressed from the Asian Development Tour (ADT), graduated from Qualifying School or are from the lower rung exemption categories. This is a very significant proportion compared to the other main Tours worldwide.
The statistic also illustrates the fact that there are many opportunities for Asian Tour members to progress into the upper echelon of the Asian Tour despite not having fully exempt status.
Nobody can exemplify this better than 2017 Asian Tour Order of Merit Champion, Gavin Green. The 23-year-old finished second on the ADT Order of Merit in 2016 and took advantage of the multiple playing opportunities he earned this year.
The talented Malaysian finished second at the Hero Indian Open, Yeangder Heritage and Shinhan Donghae Open before winning his maiden Asian Tour title at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters. Green sealed the Order of Merit title after his tied-19th finish at the Joburg Open last week.
Suradit Yongcharoenchai (currently 46th on the Asian Tour Order of Merit) finished fifth on the 2016 ADT Order of Merit in 2016. He may not have won a tournament on the Asian Tour this year, but he’s sitting comfortably within the top-61.
Stellar Class of 2017
Todd Sinnott (26th) finished Qualifying School in second place. The rookie solidified his credentials as a rising star by winning the Leopalace21 Myanmar Open a month later.
Another Qualifying School graduate who has done exceptionally well this year is Micah Lauren Shin (14th), who won the Resorts World Manila Masters in dramatic fashion.
Arnond Vonvanij (34th), Tirawat Kaewsiribandit (35th), Ben Leong (40th), Yikeun Chang (43rd), Jake Higginbottom (48th) , Jarin Todd (50th) and Namchok Tantipokhakul(61st)secured playing rights for the 2017 Asian Tour season by finishing in the top-35 (including ties) at this year’s Qualifying School.
Japan’s Daisuke Kataoka (10th) only managed to secure a conditional card as he finished 67th on the 2016 Order of Merit. However, with the tournament being co-sanctioned with the Japan Golf Tour (JGTO), he earned a spot via the JGTO and went on to win the ¥150 million (approximately US$1.37 million) event.
Similarly, Wade Ormsby (5th) of Australia earned a place in the field at the co-sanctioned UBS Hong Kong Open through the European Tour and capped off a sensational victory.
The Asian Tour has a growing number of co-sanctioned tournaments as a result of agreements in place with the European Tour, JGTO, Korean Golf Tour, CGA, PGA Tour of Australasia and the Sunshine Tour.
Flying the Flag
Khalin Joshi (51st) started the year in the Country Exemption category. He has played in 14 tournaments so far this year and has earned more than US$60,000.
Compatriot Ajeetesh Sandhu (22nd) may have missed the mark at this year’s Qualifying School, but that didn’t stop him from playing well in the tournaments he qualified for through his country exemption.
Earlier in the year, he made two cuts in four starts, including a third-place result at the TAKE Solutions Masters prior to his breakthrough win at the Yeangder TPC in Chinese Taipei. He also finished second at the Macao Open and the Panasonic Open India.
See the full Asian Tour Order of Merit here