Enter the Dragons

Tue 31 Jan 2012

Enter the Dragons

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Yangon, January 31: Asian Tour chief Kyi Hla Han is predicting a new wave of young stars will emerge and dominate the new 2012 season which kicks off with the Zaykabar Myanmar Open presented by Air Bagan on Thursday.



Han, the Tour’s Executive Chairman, believes the Chinese New Year of the Dragon will coincide with the region’s youth brigade breathing fire into their golf games as the Tour prepares for another stellar season.



With a constant supply of new talents coming through the region’s elite circuit and also via the Asian Development Tour, which was launched in 2010 to help nurture upcoming players, Han is excited and cannot wait for the first tee shot to be struck at the Royal Mingalardon Golf and Country Club this week.



“The face of Asian golf continues to prosper and change through times and it’s exciting to see more and more talented and young players coming through the ranks on the Asian Tour and Asian Development Tour,” said Han.



“I am anticipating the younger generation of golfers to dominate and excel in our new season as there is so much talent within our midst. It is great to watch the quality of players coming through on the Asian Tour and I believe 2012 will be milestone year for us.”



Han believes the likes of Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Chapchai Nirat, Chinnarat Phadungsil, Thanyakon Khrongpha and Namchok Tantipokhakul, all from Thailand, Korea’s Baek Seuk-hyun, Indian trio Chiragh Kumar, Himmat Rai and Anirban Lahiri, Bangladeshi Siddikur and Filipino teenager Miguel Tabuena will sparkle over the next 11 months.



“Players like Chapchai and Chinnarat are well established on Tour and have already won multiple times. They are still in their 20s and are very much capable of developing their games further,” said Han.


 


“I have been impressed by the likes of Himmat and Anirban who broke through with their first career victory last season and you can see their confidence level shooting sky high and they will only get better.



“It is also tremendous to see a couple of exciting teenagers such as Miguel and Panuphol displaying their youthful exuberance and raw talents and there is so much that they can accomplish on the Asian Tour. When Korea’s Noh Seung-yul won our Order of Merit title at the age of 19 two years ago, he showed the other players that age is no barrier to success.



“The youngsters are fearless but they do need to compete regularly at the highest level here to sharpen their games and become world beaters which I’m confident will happen in time,” added Han.



However, he is not discounting the challenges of the Tour veterans in the upcoming season and predicted that Thai warhorses Thongchai Jaidee and Thaworn Wiratchant will have their own private battle for supremacy.



Thongchai, who has won an unprecedented three Order of Merit crowns, holds the most number of Asian Tour victories with 13 titles while Thaworn, Asia’s number one in 2005, has won 12 titles. Both players were winless in 2011 which Han believes will provide them with renewed determination to add to their career tally.



“We’ve got to watch out for players like Thongchai and Thaworn as you cannot discard their experience and desire to achieve more success. They will be out in full force to achieve more wins under their belts and it wouldn’t surprise me if they do so in 2012,” said Han.


 


As he continued to gaze into his crystal ball, the Tour chief also believes that newly crowned Asian Tour number one Juvic Pagunsan of the Philippines will ride on the momentum from winning the Order of Merit crown in December.



“Juvic is capable of winning a couple of times in a season and it was a privilege to see him becoming our new number one last year. With such a wonderful golf swing and cool demeanor, he has all the potential to do great things,” said Han.



He added that recent Qualifying School graduates, American David Lipsky, Australia’s Adam Groom, India’s Rahil Gangjee, American Dodge Kemmer and Thailand’s Arnond Vangvanij will also be eager to shine in the new season after earning playing rights by emerging in the leading pack after a massive group of 579 players from over 30 countries had teed off in the Qualifying School.



“With the Asian Tour being represented by players from close to 30 different nationalities, we are truly an international Tour which holds great appeal for our sponsors and fans. Last season, Joonas Granberg of Finland and American Berry Henson won in their rookie seasons and I am expecting the recent Qualifying School graduates to also stamp their mark in this region. There are many talented players from Qualifying School who are capable of achieving success on the Asian Tour,” said Han.



About the Asian Tour


As the official sanctioning body for professional golf in Asia, the Asian Tour leads the development of golf across the region, enhancing the careers of its members while maintaining a commitment to the integrity of the game. The Asian Tour, through its membership of the International Federation of PGA Tours, is the only recognised pan-Asian professional golf tour in Asia. This unique feature positions the Asian Tour at the pinnacle of professional golf in Asia; providing its events with Official World Ranking status. Tour Partners include Rolex (Official Timekeeper), J.Lindeberg (Official Apparel Partner), Starwood Hotels and Resorts (Official Hotels and Resorts), Cityneon (Official Event Overlay Partner), Inetol Headwear (Official Headwear Supplier), Singha Beer (Official Beer), BlackBerry (Official Smartphone and Table Partner) and Srixon (Official Ball). The Asian Tour has offices in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.