By The Nation
Having claimed his third ADT victory at the season-opening Boonchu Ruangkit Championship in January, just two weeks after securing his Asian Tour card at the Qualifying School, the 25-year-old Thai is eyeing for more glory this week.
The popular event, hosted by Thai star Thongchai Jaidee, will offer a prize purse of ฿4million (approximately US$123,000) and will be held at the 13th Military Circle Golf Course in Thongchai’s hometown of Lopburi, which is hosting an international event for the first time.
Itthipat will spearhead the local charge alongside former ADT Order of Merit champions Pannakorn Uthaipas and Pavit Tangkamolprasert, as well as veterans Boonchu Ruangkit and Thaworn Wiratchant.
Reigning Order of Merit champion Miguel Carballo of Argentina, Tour winners Kazuki Higa of Japan, American Sam Gillis and Wang Wei-lun of Chinese Taipei will all feature in the cosmopolitan 156-man field from 19 countries.
Itthipat, who missed out on his Asian Tour card by just two rungs after finishing ninth on the 2018 Merit rankings, made up for the disappointment when he regained his playing rights at the Asian Tour Qualifying School where he came in third following a grueling 90-hole battle.
“I was struggling for a bit the last couple of years. But now that I have won again on the ADT, I feel really confident heading into the new season on the Asian Tour.
“I don’t think there is added pressure of performing well again after a win because I just need to stick to my routine. Everything else is an added bonus,” said the amiable Thai.
Itthipat, who turned professional in 2014, started plying his trade on the ADT in 2015, where he claimed his breakthrough victory in the Philippines which was only his sixth start on the region’s secondary circuit that year.
He went on to secure a second ADT victory at the season-opener in Singapore in 2016 before finishing fourth on the money list that year to earn his Asian Tour card for the first time.
“After playing on the ADT for so many years, I think I have become more mature in the mental aspect of my game. I used to be so focused on results and now, I just try not to overthink,” added Itthipat.
Thongchai, Thailand’s number one Golf Ambassador who has been helping to promote international awareness of the Kingdom as a world-class golf destination, is thrilled to be hosting the fourth edition of his event on the course which he started playing since he was 16.
The 49-year-old hopes to share the rich history of his hometown and at the same time bring attention to his charitable foundation which was formed in 2009 to give back to the underprivileged.
“The whole town will be wearing traditional costumes and I think it is a great opportunity to share my culture with the players by encouraging them to wear the traditional costumes during the welcome dinner and at the pro-am tournament,” said Thongchai, the only player to have won the Asian Tour Order of Merit on three occasions - 2001, 2004 and 2009.
The Thongchai Jaidee Foundation 2019 will also be held in conjunction with the King Narai Reign fair, a 10-day event organized by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) in Lopburi to pay homage to King Narai the Great, who lived from 1580–1655.
During his reign, King Narai turned Lopburi province as well as Thailand into the centre of culture, religion and diplomatic relations.
The leading seven players on the final ADT Order of Merit will earn playing rights on the premier Asian Tour for the 2020 season.
All ADT events offer Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points. The winner will receive a minimum of six OWGR points while the top six players and ties will also earn points based on a sliding scale.