By THE NATION
Panuphol, who claimed a memorable second Asian Tour victory at the Kingdom’s National Open last year, will challenge for top honours again on his home course when he headlines the US$300,000 event, which is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the Thailand Golf Association.
“I feel really excited. I am looking forward to my title defence this week. I still remember I holed a lot of putts to win the tournament last year. It was great to win my own National Open. It’s a huge honour,” said the 26-year-old.
“The game’s pretty alright. Not playing my ‘A’ game yet but I’m working on it right now and I know I’m on the right track,” added Panuphol, who has claimed one top-10 finish and three top-20 results in 11 starts on the Asian Tour to sit in 27th place on the Order of Merit.
Panuphol, nicknamed ‘Coconut’ by his parents, turned professional in 2007 at a young age of 14, He has never finished outside the top-60 on the Asian Tour Order of Merit since coming through the Qualifying School in 2011.
Qualifying School graduate Kosuke Hamamoto will be making his debut appearance in the Thailand Open. The Thai-Japanese has enjoyed a solid rookie season so far and is looking to translate his impressive form into a victory when he tees up at the Thai Country Club.
“It’s my first time playing the Thailand Open. I am very excited because it’s my National Open. The game’s been good. I know I just need to keep giving myself chances and stay patient. I have only played once on this course but I do have some memories here,” said Hamamato.
The 20-year-old Hamamoto has virtually kept his card for the 2020 season, thanks to two top-10 finishes in Chinese Taipei and Indonesia. He sits in 32nd place on the money list with a current haul of US$88,581.
Khun Rungsrid Luxsitanonda, President of Thailand Golf Association, hailed the return of the Thailand Open on the Asian Tour.
“We are delighted to sanction the Thailand Open with the Asian Tour once again this week. Working closely with the Asian Tour for a long time to grow the stature and prestige of the Thailand Open, the association has played a major role in developing the game of golf in Thailand and in the region. We are looking forward to another successful edition of the Thailand Open this week,” said Rungsrid.
The president added that because of its long history, this prestigious tournament has always been attracting the players both Thais and foreigners, who are vying for the coveted trophy graciously offered by the late King Rama IX. With that, this annual tournament has become much more competitive and it serves as another stage for the golfers to hone their skills and promote the country dubbed The Golf Factory.
“Someone says that Thailand is a golf factory in the region and I believed that the association has been part in supporting the factory,” he added.
John Blanch, General Manager of the Thai Country Club, also lauded the staging of the event and said, “We are honoured to be hosting the event for the third straight year. We are glad to welcome back the Asian Tour stars and officials this week. Our staff have also been working very hard to ensure our course is in optimum condition so that we can provide a quality test to the players.”
Cho Minn Thant, Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, Asian Tour, expressed his appreciation to Thai Golf Association and Thai Country Club for their outstanding support over the past few years.
“I would like to express our gratitude to the Thailand Golf Association and the Thai Country Club for their outstanding commitment and support. Their valuable contributions have been instrumental in strengthening professional golf across Asia. We hope the staging of the Thailand Open will continue to inspire the younger generation of players,” said Cho.
The Thailand Open will also kick off the third edition of the Asian Tour’s 2019/20 Panasonic Swing, which is a ranking based on an aggregate points race that spans five events with the final top-three players chasing a share of a lucrative bonus pool.