Trio back on familiar grounds

Noh Seung-yul ©Khalid Redza/Asian Tour

Kuala Lumpur: The talented trio of Kevin Na, Charlie Wi and Noh Seung-yul will enjoy a trip down memory lane when they compete in the US$6.1 million CIMB Classic at the Mines Resort and Golf Club next week. 

Malaysia has been a happy hunting ground for all three players, who won tournaments here when they featured on the Asian Tour previously before moving on to the PGA Tour.

The 40-year-old Wi claimed the first of his seven Asian Tour titles at the 1997 Kuala Lumpur Open before establishing himself as one of Asia’s top golfers with six more victories, including the 2006 Malaysian Open.

Na, a Korean-American, enjoyed his career breakthrough by winning his maiden professional title at the Volvo Masters of Asia in 2002 in Malaysia while the gifted Noh has since emerged as one of the Asian Tour’s greatest talents in recent times.

After earning his Tour card as a 16-year-old from Qualifying School, Noh won his first Asian Tour title in China in 2008 before making history by becoming the Tour’s youngest ever Order of Merit champion in 2010 while at the age of 19. It was the same year which saw the Korean win Malaysia’s national championship.

Although Wi is now based in the United States, he still follows the action closely on the Asian Tour. “I’m still a big fan of the Asian Tour,” said Wi, who finished tied fifth in the CJ Invitational hosted by KJ Choi on the Asian Tour two weeks ago.

Noh has been touted as a potential top-10 player in the world where he trains under swing guru Sean Foley, who is also the coach of 14-time Major champion Tiger Woods. Former world number one Woods will headline the CIMB Classic along with title holder Bo Van Pelt and inaugural champion Ben Crane.

The slender Noh produced an impressive rookie season on the PGA Tour this year, notching three top-10s and 13 top-25s. He has also made 17 consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour dating back to April.

Noh, who started hitting golf balls on the beach near his home when he was seven, said competing on the Asian Tour laid the foundation for his rapid rise in world golf. “The Asian Tour has done so much in my career and I’m thankful for the opportunities,” he said.

“My game has become better over the years through the high level of competition and I will continue to represent the Asian Tour proudly. Playing on the Asian Tour helped me a lot as we play in different countries and different courses. I had to adapt to the changes in grass food and travelling which I think is important for a golfer.”