30 golf champions to vie for US$300,000 Sarawak Championship title

Unho (second from left) and Abdul Karim (centre) at the Sarawak Championship press conference.

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KUCHING, June 29: Sarawak will play host to more than 30 international golf champions from 20 countries in the inaugural US$300,000 (RM1.2 million) Sarawak Championship next week.

Gaganjeet Bhullar from India, holder of eight Asian Tour titles, will feature alongside 2017 ‘Rookie of the Year’ Micah Lauren Shin of the United States, Xiao Bowen of China, and Thailand’s Atiwit Jazz Janewattananond at the Damai Golf and Country Club from July 4-7.

Also in the elite field are former Asian Tour number ones Jeev Milkha Singh and Jyoti Randhawa of India, while the local challengers will be spearheaded by Nicholas Fung and Ben Leong, winners on the Asian Tour.

Thailand’s Pavit Tangkamolprasert will return to the Borneo state with happy memories as he had tasted victory in Sarawak on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) in 2014. With six ADT titles under his belt, the 29-year-old Pavit holds the most number of victories on the region’s secondary circuit.

“I won in Sarawak before, although it’s a different golf course. It’s been four years since I won in Sarawak, but I am looking forward to going back to Malaysia next week. It always feels like home in Malaysia. I used to go there a lot when I played on the ADT, so I am very happy to go back to Malaysia,” said Pavit, whose goal next week is to claim his second Asian Tour title at the Sarawak Championship.

He sensationally won his first Asian Tour title at the 2016 Venetian Macao Open by defeating Anirban Lahiri from India on the first play-off hole.

The win was a huge boost in his career, and he hoped to repeat the feat in Sarawak.

“I have a lot of good memories in Malaysia. I won two of my ADT titles in the country. Everything is good for me right now. My wrist is okay and my game’s feeling strong. I am driving the ball good. I feel very confident. We’ve got a stretch of events coming up, so, hopefully, I can get some good results.

“At this point, my aim is to finish the year in the top 60 and keep my card. I have been playing well this season. It has been almost two years since I won in Macao. I want to win again,” said Pavit, who ranks 46th on the Habitat for Humanity Standings.

Malaysia’s Fung, who hails from Sabah, was delighted with the new addition of the Sarawak Championship in Malaysia.

Fung would be leading the local challenge with the goal of winning his second Asian Tour title.

“I know the Sarawak state government and the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Sarawak have been trying so hard to host an Asian Tour event, and now that it is happening, it is good for Sarawak and the Malaysian golfers.

“The culture in Sarawak is different, so the players can expect a very nice cultural change as compared to Kuala Lumpur, where we usually have our Asian Tour events.

“Sarawakians are really friendly, and it is a nice course. I’ve played a lot at the Damai course when I was an amateur, so I’m really looking forward to it,” said Fung.

Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said by hosting this event, the state government and his ministry planned to showcase Sarawak as a destination for golfers in Asia and around the world while promoting the beauty of the state through the tour’s television highlights.

He also hoped to leverage on the tour’s global coverage via its online platform to promote tourism in Sarawak.

According to Unho Park, who is the event’s manager (Tour and Player Affairs), this would be the first time the Asian Tour hosted a tournament in Sarawak since staging ADT events from 2012 to 2017.

The event will serve to showcase the state through the match highlights on TV beamed to the vast region including China, India, Japan and Korea, together with Asean comprising Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, Laos and Brunei.

The Sarawak Championship is the third new Asian Tour event announced this year, following the Asia-Pacific Classic in China and UMA CNS Open Golf Championship, which is staged in Pakistan.

The Asian Tour also sanctioned the ISPS HANDA New Zealand Open for the first time earlier this year.

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), Panasonic (Official Consumer Electronics), Habitat for Humanity (Official Sustainable Development Partner), ECCO (Official Footwear Sponsor), Titleist and FootJoy (Official Web Partner), Bloomberg TV (Official International Media Partner), Bloomberg Businessweek Chinese (Official International Media Partner), Wall Street Journal (Official International Media Partner) and Sentosa in Singapore which is the Home of the Asian Tour which also has an office in Kuala Lumpur. — DayakDaily