Han Blog: These boys can now play

Mon 08 Jul 2013

Han Blog: These boys can now play

  • SHARE
This month sees the return of The Open Championship where Asian Tour stalwarts will attempt to make their mark on the world stage again. In his latest blog, Asian Tour's Executive Chairman Kyi Hla Han pens down his thoughts on the Asian Tour challenge at Muirfield.
By Kyi Hla Han
It’s that time of the year again when the best players from around the world gather at Muirfield to show who will lay claim to be the next deserving Open Championship winner.
The intricacies of links golf can be a brutal test of wits, mental and physical endurance.
I remember vividly being greeted by the gusty winds and chilly conditions that characterise the Open Championship when I took my place among the stellar field at St Andrews in 2000.
Along with Chinese Taipei’s Yeh Wei-tze and India’s Jyoti Randhawa, we were what the media had coined, part of the Asian Invasion' of British Open back then.
Tiger Woods won that year while all three of us missed the weekend cut. I guess you can say we were down but not out.
The closest we got to a grandstand finish at the Open Championship was in 1971 when Chinese Taipei’s Lu-Liang-huan was pipped to second place by American Lee Trevino. It showed that we could certainly put Asia back in the spotlight.
Asian success overseas then was scarce and scattered. But through the advent of the Asian Tour which has created and improved playing opportunities for our members, we’ve made huge strides in world golf.
Of course everyone still talks about Asian Tour honorary member Y.E. Yang’s  win at the PGA Championship in 2009 which made him the first male Asian Major champion.
Fellow Indian honorary member Jeev Milkha Singh’s win at the Aberdeen Asset Scottish Open last year was also a testament that our boys can win anywhere around the world today.
Thongchai Jaidee also won for the first time on European soil at the Wales Open last year and came very close to winning again in Bulgaria last month before losing in the final to Graeme McDowell at the Volvo Match Play Championship in May.
Korea’s Bae Sang-moon, who spent his formative years playing on the region’s premier Tour before heading to the United States, won his maiden PGA Tour title at the HP Byron Nelson Championship as well recently while our honorary member K.J. Choi has eight victories in America.
All of these players began their professional careers on the Asian Tour before going on to make their impressions around the world. Through comments over the years, players like Jeev, Thongchai, KJ and YE have attributed the Asian Tour for their rise in stature.
They say that competing in different countries and different golf courses and conditions across Asia has armed them with the necessary skills to take on the world’s best golfers abroad.
Their success will not doubt inspire a lot of young players who will feel that if one their own player can do it, so can they. And we are now seeing the results of that.
Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who turns 24 in July, will make his Major debut at the Open and his progress will be followed closely as he is amongst the new generation of Asian Tour stars whom I believe will make a lasting impression in the world of golf.
The big Thai won the Maybank Malaysian Open in March against a stellar field but considering that he will play on a links course for the first time in his life, we cannot expect too much from Kiradech.
A lot of our players have certainly benefited from our co-sanction programme with the European Tour and PGA Tour. Through these events, our boys can test themselves against the top players and also have the opportunity to fast-track their careers should they win a co-sanctioned tournament.
The likes of Jeev, Thongchai, Arjun Atwal, Thaworn, Noh Seung-yul, Charlie Wi and many others have taken this route to fame as they have prepared and adapted themselves well in different playing conditions that when they go to a Major, it will not represent a different test for them anymore.
Now, any takers for an Asian winner at the Open Championship this month?
Ends.