Monday, September 25, 2017

King’s ransom on offer at Royal Mingalardon

The biggest prize in Myanmar sport will be fought over between February 4 and 7 when golf’s Asian Tour returns to the Royal Minglardon Golf and Country Club for the Leopalace21 Myanmar Open.

Zaw Moe is Myanmar’s only currently active player on the Asian Tour. Photo: Asian TourZaw Moe is Myanmar’s only currently active player on the Asian Tour. Photo: Asian Tour

At a press conference to announce the event held on November 30 at the Novotel Max, a US$750,000 prize pot was revealed with the winner set for a $135,000 share of the purse.

Tee-off times will be allocated to 12 Myanmar golfers, likely to include the 2015 Myanmar Tour leader Zaw Zaw Latt, the ever-consistent Thein Zaw Myint and the country’s best amateur players.

“Myanmar’s players need a little more confidence to play on the world stage,” Chan Han, secretary of the Myanmar Professional Golfers’ Association, told The Myanmar Times after the press conference.

“The local tour [re-established in 2014] has been good practice for them and I hope the host venue will give us a few extra practice rounds to give us the edge to face the best players from across the region,” added Chan Han.

“The players can look forward to a good paycheck – in terms of kyat that’s a lot of zeros. $2025 for 65th place, that’s pretty good for walking round a golf course for five days.”

The event will be co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the Japan Golf Tour and the remaining spots in the 144-strong field will be split evenly between members of the two sanctioning bodies.

Chair of the Asian Tour Kyi Hla Han agreed with his brother Chan Han, adding that with golf’s acceptance into the Olympic Games, the tournament opened further opportunities for local players.

“The Leopalace21 Myanmar Open will become a world ranking event for Olympic qualification … helping to secure qualification points, if not for Rio 2016 then for Tokyo 2020,” added Kyi Hla Han, winner of the 1999 Asian Tour Order of Merit and arguably Myanmar’s most successful sportsperson.

First held in 1996, the Myanmar Open was part of the international calendar for 10 straight years. But since 2006, its appearance has been sporadic, with editions in 2010, 2012 and no tournament held since Chawalit Plaphol of Thailand lifted the trophy in 2013.

Myanmar Golf Federation President Ko Ko Aye said he hoped the competition would help the next generation of golfers from Myanmar to see a future in the game.

“The return of our national championship will definitely spur local golf development and inspire young golfers to excel in the professional game,” he said.

Entries for the event will be finalised three weeks beforehand. Kyi Hla Han is confident of a strong field travelling from the also-returning Singapore Open to Myanmar.

“I feel that this two-tournament swing starting the year in Asia with Singapore and Myanmar will attract top players,” added the former Asian number one.

Chan Han also pointed to the alumni of past winners, including Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee, now ranked 28th in the world, and a prize pot that he says is twice that of any previous Myanmar Open as reasons to expect competitive golf.

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