THAILAND’S Kiradech Aphibarnrat is determined to experience the highs of last season in the country where he has enjoyed his most success when the inaugural EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM gets underway on Thursday.
The EurAsia Cup holds a special place for Kiradech as he believes it will provide the Asian Tour with the opportunity to showcase the strength of Asian golf. Team Asia will take on Team Europe over three days in the Ryder Cup-style event.
“When I see this event on the schedule, I feel very proud that we have a tournament like the Ryder Cup here in Asia. I’m happy that the younger generation like me gets a chance to play in this kind of tournament. I look forward to seeing the Asian Tour grow to be like the European Tour and PGA Tour,” said Kiradech.
The 24-year old won the prestigious Asian Tour Order of Merit last year, thanks to lifting his second Asian Tour title at the Maybank Malaysian Open. He followed that victory up with a tied-third finish at the CIMB Classic in October, also in Malaysia.
Having also enjoyed several top-10s in Malaysia since he made his professional debut in 2008, Kiradech or ‘Arm’ as he is affectionately known to his friends, is banking on this ‘feel-good’ factor to steer Asia towards victory over Europe at theGlenmarie Golf and Country Club.
“I always feel at home whenever I play in Malaysia. This week is exceptionally special as my family is here to support me. I think I’ve got a lot of luck in Malaysia, ever since I won the Malaysian Open last year,” said Kiradech.
The tantalizing three-day match play contest is set to ignite intercontinental rivalry and deliver similar tension and drama expected of a world-class match play event.
“Team Europe has got all the top players but I think we’ve got good players as well, especially Thongchai Jaidee, who is one of the best players in Asia right now. I think we will be a tough team to beat,” said Kiradech.
The EurAsia Cup will be another opportunity for the long-hitting Thai to be back in the thick of the action and he is ready to capitalize on it and regain that much-needed confidence despite feeling the loss of his coach, Natpasit Chokthanasart, nicknamed Pro Jew who passed away last December.
“I haven’t been able to get back my swing ever since my coach passed away. It’s tough to go back and work on my game when my coach is not around anymore. I will work very hard to try and find my game back,” said Kiradech.
Meanwhile Malaysia’s Nicholas Fung, the reigning Asian Development Tour number one, is ready to put in a performance worthy of his status as Malaysia’s highest ranked golfer.
Like Kiradech, the Malaysian hailed the arrival of the EurAsia Cup as he knows it is a contest that is set to stir up vociferous support for fans from both sides of the continent.
“I’m happy to see a new event like this on the schedule and I’m glad to be part of it. It benefits the players here in Asia and I hope to see it grow in the next few years. It is a good opportunity to gain experience and bring my game up another level as we get to play with the European players.”
The stars have been shinning for the 23-year-old Malaysian since he won the Asian Development Tour (ADT) Order of Merit title and he is planning to take advantage of his course familiarity for Team Asia’s maiden win at the EurAsia Cup.
“I’ve played here a few times already. The greens are firmer and faster as compared to years ago. Overall, the course is looking good and it is not too long. Hopefully it will be an advantage to us,” said Nicholas.
Picked as the captain’s wild card, Nicholas is also determined to repay the faith shown by Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee and his entourage of family members who have arrived from Sabah to lend their support.
“My parents, my relatives and my sponsors are all flying over to KL from Sabah to support me this week. My form has been good since last year so I hope I can bring forward the good form to this week,” said Nicholas.