A total of 223 hopefuls will vie for the much-sought after Asian Tour cards when the all-important Asian Tour Qualifying School Final Stage starts on Wednesday.
The Suvarnabhumi Golf and Country Club will be the host venue where final stage will be played over four rounds. After 36 holes, the field will be cut to the leading 80 players and ties who will then play a further two rounds.
At the conclusion of 72 holes, the leading 35 players and ties will be ranked accordingly for the 2017 Asian Tour season.
Players from 30 countries will tee up at the Suvarnabhumi Golf and Country Club and they include nationalities from as far as Venezuela, Poland, Colombia and the United States.
Among the notable entrants are Australia’s Richard Green, England’s Steve Lewton, India’s C. Muniyappa and Malaysia’s Ben Leong. Together with former Tour winners that include Australia’s Rick Kulacz and David Gleeson, India’s Himmat Rai as well as Thailand’s Arnond Vongvanij, Udorn Duangdecha and Chawalit Plaphol, this year’s Asian Tour Qualifying School Final Stage will present one of the toughest tests to aspiring professionals seeking their playing rights on the region’s premier Tour for the 2017 season.
Leong is coming into the week with a rich vein of form, having won five consecutive events on the domestic circuit while Green is looking for a return to competitive golf at the highest level after missing out on his playing rights in Europe by the slightest of margins last season. Lewton, who won his Asian Tour title at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters in 2014, is already bracing himself for a stressful week while Muniyappa is hoping to make up for lost time by regaining his status on the Asian Tour.
Ben Leong (Mas)
I’ve won on the Asian Tour before but then I got injured and stopped playing for a couple of years. I did my rehab, got back to playing on the local circuit for the last three years and it has been good so far. It’s nice to be able to win five times in a row on the local circuit. It just one of those weeks and months when you feel relaxed and I stayed really patient and more importantly I had fun. For this week, whoever putts well, will earn their Tour card. The fairways are pretty wide and you got to play your wedge shots really well too.
Richard Green (Aus)
I’ve been working pretty hard on my game and trying to play better golf. I had a very rough year last year with injuries and poor form. That left me without a card on the European Tour. I missed out on keeping my European Tour card by about 10 spots but I also had a career money list exemption which I thought was pretty safe when I finished my season in Portugal. I went home to play the Australian Open and found out that Alex Noren had won over a million dollars and went pass me by about 20 thousand in the career earning category. I was in a bit of a shock as I thought I was safe for next year. I looked a t a few options and thought it would be good to come here and get my Asian Tour card. I could get into some of the co-sanctioned events and play well on this Tour. I heard about the strategic alliance the Asian Tour has with the European Tour and that could be a way of getting back into Europe. But even if I don’t do that, I still hope to have some status here on the Asian Tour. It’s important for any professional golfer to have the ability to play in any tournaments. That’s why I’m here and hopefully get back to the standard of golf which I’m used to.
I’ve been playing well on the local Tour in India and I’m looking forward to doing the same on the Asian Tour. I hope to do well at Qualifying School this week. Winning the Indian Open in 2009 was definitely the highlight of my career. It was unfortunate I had a back injury which cut short my playing time and progress for about one and a half years. It’s better now and I really want to get back to the winner’s circle. I feel that all it takes is one victory again and I’ll be able to come back really strong all over again. This golf course is very challenging with lots of bunkers and water hazards. So it’ll be important to avoid all of them.
Steve Lewton (Eng)
It’s going to be a tough week. The course looks pretty good but I just got to play solid. I think the scoring will be pretty low so I need to get my putting touch right. It’s always difficult coming back to Q School but you just got to stay positive and do what you got to do. It would be great for me to get my card back again and get back to where I was in the winner’s circle again. There’s always pressure but you got to try not to put too much on yourself too. It’s like going for a job interview with over 200 people competing for the same job. At the end, only 35 people or so will get the job, so it’s pretty tough and stressful.