Sweden’s Daniel Chopra will attempt to make the grade again when he tees up in the all-important Asian Tour Qualifying School Final Stage presented by Sports Authority of Thailand which starts on Wednesday.
A total of 232 players will feature in the Final Stage which will be played at Imperial Lakeview Golf Club and Springfield Royal Country Club in the first two rounds while Springfield Royal will host the final two days.
Chopra, a two-time PGA Tour champion and a one-time winner on the Asian Tour, is relishing the prospects of returning to his roots in Asia where he honed his skills during his formative years as a professional golfer.
“I’ve done some good work at home for the past couple of weeks after finishing in Dubai so I’m reasonably confident with my game. I love playing in Asia and it’s one of the reasons why I am here at the Qualifying School this week,” said the 41-year-old Swede, whose father is Indian and grew up with his grandparents in the sub-continent.
Chopra, who won the Mercuries Taiwan Masters on the Asian Tour in 2001, is hopeful of renewing his affinity with Asia by finishing in top-40 to earn his Tour card for the 2015 season.
“People asked why I am playing in the Qualifying School after all these years. I said my love for the game is still there. If the Qualifying School is the only way I get to play on the Asian Tour, then I will do it. I will do it the hard way, just like how I did when I first started my career,” added Chopra, who enjoyed a top-five finish in Chinese Taipei last season.
2006 Hong Kong Open winner, José Manuel Lara of Spain, is also eyeing for a coveted spot in the 2015 Asian Tour season in what is his first attempt at the Asian Tour Qualifying School.
“I’ve always liked playing in Asia, especially since winning my maiden title in Hong Kong. I have had many good experiences here. I like the weather, the people and the food here. I’m feeling very excited because it’s my first time playing in the Asian Tour Qualifying School.
“I only got here yesterday and I’m still feeling a bit of jet-lagged but I will try to stay awake! I am really happy to be here and I can’t wait to get out to the course already. I will do my best to get my Asian Tour card this week,” said the 37-year-old Lara.
Promising talent Ye Jian-feng of China, who missed out on his Asian Tour card by two shots last year, hopes to make amends when he tees off at the Qualifying School this week.
“I have not set any targets for myself. I just want to try my best this week. I love playing on the Asian Tour. The atmosphere is good and I have got a lot of good friends here which is why I kept wanting to try and get my Asian Tour card all these years,” said Ye, who was the youngest ever player to compete in an Asian Tour event when he teed up in the 2004 Sanya Open in China as a 13-year-old.
Despite his lackluster season in 2014, Ye paid tribute to the Asian Development Tour (ADT), saying it has given him valuable playing experiences and is confident that his career breakthrough will come soon.
“Playing on the ADT last season has helped a lot in my game. You tend to see improvements in your game when you get to play more tournaments. It keeps your game at a certain standard too.
“I haven’t played well on the Asian Tour but I treat it as a learning process. I love the game so I will continue to work hard until I succeed. I think it’s something all players have to go through so I just need to make sure I’m headed in the right direction and hopefully my breakthrough will come soon,” added the 23-year-old Ye.
All Qualifying School entrants will be eligible to compete on the burgeoning ADT, which was inaugurated in 2010 as a gateway to the premier Asian Tour. The secondary circuit staged a record total of 21 tournaments in the 2014 season.
With the Olympic Games looming in 2016 where golf will be reintroduced as a medal sport, players in the region could earn their spots in Rio de Janeiro by earning Official World Golf Ranking points through the Asian Tour and ADT.
ASIAN TOUR MEDIA ADVISORY
This week’s event: Asian Tour Qualifying School Final Stage presented by Sports Authority of Thailand.
Venue: Imperial Lakeview Golf Club and Springfield Royal Country Club, Hua Hin, Thailand (Rd 1 and Rd 2). Rd 3 and 4 will be played at Springfield Royal.
Starts: From January 21, Wednesday to January 24, Saturday.
Tournament Fast Facts:
- The top-40 and ties at the Asian Tour Qualifying School Final Stage will earn their Tour cards for 2015.
- This year’s Qualifying School hopefuls will be looking to emulate the success of past graduates such as newly-crowned 2014 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion David Lipsky of the United States, who topped the class in 2012, as well as Thai heroes Thongchai Jaidee, who is a three-time Order of Merit champion, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Asia’s number one in 2013 and Korea’s Noh Seung-yul, who won the Merit title in 2010.
- Sweden’s Rikard Karlberg and Berry Henson of the United States, who came through the Qualifying School First Stage in 2010 and 2011 respectively before going on to earn their Tour cards, have also successfully made their winning breakthrough on the region’s premier Tour.
- Other graduates who have become Tour champions include Korea’s Charlie Wi, India’s Shiv Kapur and Arjun Atwal, England’s Simon Dyson, Japan’s Tetsuji Hiratsuka, Australian Scott Hend and Siddikur Rahman of Bangladesh.
- Players who play in the Qualifying School are also eligible to play on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) which gives players the opportunity to play their way onto the region’s premier Tour for the following season.
- With the Olympic Games looming in 2016 where golf will be reintroduced as a medal sport, players in the region could earn their spots in Rio de Janeiro by earning Official World Golf Ranking points through the Asian Tour and ADT.