The arrival of the region’s best players including Olympians Byeonghun An and Thongchai Jaidee will make the Shinhan Donghae Open a highly-anticipated event when it gets underway at the Bears Best Cheongna Golf Club from September 29 to October 2.
Inaugurated in 1981, the long-established Shinhan Donghae Open sees the return of the Asian Tour as its new sanctioning partner along with the Korean PGA. The popular event last featured on the Asian Tour schedule in 2002.
An and Thongchai represented Korea and Thailand respectively at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro earlier this month but will switch their focus towards individual glory at the KRW 1.2 billion (approximately US$1 million) tournament.
Fresh from his Olympic debut where he finished tied 11th, An will be seeking to put up a stout defence of his title against a strong field.
An, whose parents are Olympic medallists in table tennis, was named as the European Tour Rookie of the Year last year after a superb season where he won one title and posted eight top-10s.
The world number 37 has continued his fine form this season, notching three top-five finishes including a play-off defeat at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans on the PGA TOUR.
“I still remember the day I won the Shinhan Donghae Open last year. It was such a special moment for me to win a title at my father’s birthplace,” said An.
The 24-year-old is aware of the tough challenge ahead as local fans are also set to see the likes of K.T. Kim, Sanghyun Park and Jinho Choi, who are the highest ranked players in Japan and Korea, in action.
Kim is a proven star in Asia where he enjoyed a phenomenal season in the Japan, winning five times before topping the money list there.
The world number 53 has also won thrice in Japan this year and is currently ranked second on the merit list there.
An is however confident of his chances and relishing the challenge.
“I’ve improved ever since that win and I’m very confident of my chances this year. I’ll do my best to defend my title,” said An.
Thongchai will be returning to familiar winning ground, having last won in the Land of the Morning Calm in 2009. His first Asian Tour victory was also achieved in the 2000 Korean Open.
The three-time Asian Tour Order of Merit champion will be hoping to add his name to the Shinhan Donghae Open’s illustrious roll of honour that includes Asian Tour honorary members K.J. Choi and India’s Jeev Milha Singh, Korea’s Charlie Wi and Sangmoon Bae as well as international luminaries Paul Casey of England and Japan’s Seiji Ebihar.
“Ever since I won my first title in Korea in 2000, Korea has always been a special place for me. Many thanks to the Shinhan Donghae Open as I now have the opportunity to visit the country again.
“It’s good the profile of the event has also become higher with the return of the Asian Tour as a sanctioning body,” said Thongchai.
Sponsored by the Shinhan Financial Group for the past 32 years, the Shinhan Donghae Open will be the last major tournament on the KPGA schedule.
As an added motivation for players from the KPGA, the top three players not otherwise exempt will earn places at the US$1.1 million Venetian Macao Open scheduled from October 13 to 16.