asian.tour.qualifying.schoolGolfers dreaming of stamping their mark on the Asian Tour will face their first hurdle when they tee up in the Asian Tour Qualifying School Stage One, Section A starting on Wednesday.

Over 430 players from around the world have signed up for the First Stage of Qualifying School presented by Sports Authority of Thailand, with Section A taking place at the Imperial Lakeview Golf Club in Hua Hin and Singha Park Khon Kaen Golf Club in Khon Kaen, Thailand this week.

Section B of the First Stage will continue next week at Imperial Lakeview and Springfield Royal Country Club in Hua Hin.

After four rounds, the top 22% of the starting field at each course will qualify for the all-important Final Stage at Springfield Royal and Imperial Lakeview from January 21-24 where the top-40 finishers and ties will earn playing privileges on the Asian Tour in 2015.

Those who compete in the Qualifying School, considered as one of the toughest tests in golf, will enjoy playing rights on the Asian Development Tour (ADT).

A total of 131 players are already exempted into the Final Stage where they will be joined by those who successfully negotiate past the First Stage.

For the First Stage, Korea has the highest number of participants with a total of 43 entries followed by Australia (38), United States (33), Japan (32), Thailand (28), England (19), New Zealand (9) and South Africa (9).

Sweden (9), Spain (8), Finland (7), Taiwan (7), Canada (6), Germany (5), India (5), Singapore (5), France (5), Scotland (3), Philippines (3), Austria (2), Denmark (2), Ireland (2), Estonia (1), Bangladesh (1), Turkey (1) and Indonesia (1) will also be represented at the first stage of the Qualifying School.

Over the years, the Asian Tour Qualifying School has proven to be the springboard to success for many of the region’s recognisable names.

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.

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 list 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, Malaysia’s Ben Leong, Australian Scott Hend and Siddikur Rahman of Bangladesh.

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