Bangkok, Thailand: A resurgent Prom Meesawat feels the time is right to step out of his illustrious father’s shadow by wining the US$1 million Thailand Open on fast-growing OneAsia this week.
Prom’s dad Suthep was the first local winner of the Thailand Open in 1991, a feat that both haunts and inspires his son.
A recent victory on the ASEAN PGA Tour and a creditable performance in his first Major, The Open Championship at Royal St George’s has buoyed the 27-year-old Thai ahead of the most prestigious event of the year for local players.
Countryman Kiradech Aphibarnrat, known for his grip-it-and-rip-it style, also has plenty to prove this week after squandering a two-shot lead during the last professional tournament to be played at the award-winning Suwan Golf and Country Club.
Among their main challengers in the eighth leg of the OneAsia schedule will be Japanese legends Shingo Katayama and Shigeki Maruyama, former US Open champion Michael Campbell of New Zealand and OneAsia winners Andre Stolz, Kim Felton, Michael Hendry and Kim Dae-hyun.
Thaworn Wiratchant, bidding for back-to-back wins on OneAsia after his thrilling victory in the Indonesia Open presented by Enjoy Jakarta, two-time champion Boonchu Ruangkit, Thongchai Jaidee, the highest world-ranked player in the field, and in-form Chawalit Plaphol will spearhead the home assault on the title from August 11-14.
Prom, nearing the form that saw him tipped for greatness after winning the 2006 SK Telecom Open, knows that he will always be judged on his performances in the Thailand Open given his father’s success in the storied tournament.
“When my father is asked by one of my uncles or his friends how good I am at golf, he says that I still have to win the Thailand Open like him,” said Prom.
“He is right. I still do not have the King’s Trophy at home. It is the tournament every Thai golfer wants to win and I have more reasons to win it (than the others).”
Injury-free and mentally toughened after several sessions with a sports psychologist, Prom ended a confidence-sapping five-year title drought with a runaway nine-stroke victory in the Singha Pattaya Open in May and finished his Major debut at The Open bracketed alongside the likes of Geoff Ogilvy and Ian Poulter, just a few strokes below the cut line.
“The win on the ASEAN PGA Tour was great as it had been a long time since my last victory. It gave me a lot of confidence,” said Prom, nicknamed the “Big Dolphin”.
“Hopefully it will be the start of something big for me. The last time I won the Singha Pattaya Open I went on to win on the Asian Tour. I hope this is going to be a good omen – maybe a Thailand Open win is coming.”
Like Prom, Kiradech has rid himself of nagging injuries and is keen for more wins after his triumph in the SAIL Open on the Asian circuit earlier this year.
“I feel like I am playing well again. I got a wrist injury this year caused by playing so much golf. It has been a good year especially after winning in India but then my wrist got very sore,” he said.
Kiradech rested for a couple of weeks before teeing it up at the Indonesia Open where he finished joint 10th behind Thaworn. He followed that up with sixth spot at the Sun Chlorella Classic on the Japan Golf Tour.
The burly 22-year-old Thai, a former world junior champion, has bitter-sweet memories of the Suwan Golf and Country Club where he finished fourth in last year’s Asian Tour International.
He thrilled the galleries with some big hitting and birdie bursts but let slip a two-shot lead going into the final round, a closing 73 dropping him down the leaderboard.
“I enjoy playing the course. It doesn’t exactly suit my game but I can definitely play well there,” he said.
“I am determined to do well in the Thailand Open – it is the most important event of the year for all Thai players. Only Suthep and Boonchu have won. It means everything to us.” – www.oneasia.asia