| World Cup of Golf

Pride and pas­sion will very much be the main theme at the ISPS HANDA Mel­bourne World Cup of Golf later this month.

HK Golfer - - Contents - By Chuah Choo Chi­ang

Team com­pe­ti­tions of­ten bring out the best from ath­letes, es­pe­cially when they proudly put on the na­tional flag to rep­re­sent their coun­tries. Such a priv­i­lege can evoke an over­flow of pas­sion, com­pet­i­tive spirit and pride that sub­se­quently cre­ate a won­der­ful the­atre for sports fans to en­joy and cel­e­brate. In golf, the op­por­tu­nity to rep­re­sent your coun­try in team com­pe­ti­tion is few and far in be­tween as the pro­fes­sional cir­cuits, from the PGA TOUR to the do­mes­tic tours around the world, reg­u­larly see golfers bat­tling it out for in­di­vid­ual honours on a weekly ba­sis.

Later this month though in Mel­bourne, Aus­tralia, some 56 of the finest golfers will team up to rep­re­sent 28 coun­tries to vie for one of the most prized team tro­phies, the World Cup of Golf.

It is a team com­pe­ti­tion rich in his­tory and tra­di­tion where past win­ning teams in­clude great names such as of Ben Ho­gan/ Sam Snead, Peter Thom­son/Kel Na­gle, Arnold Palmer/Jack Nick­laus, David Du­val/Tiger Woods, Davis Love III/Fred Cou­ples and Ernie Els/Retief Goosen.

For the Asian na­tions, the ISPS HANDA Mel­bourne World Cup of Golf at The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Golf Club from Novem­ber 22 to 25 will of­fer an­other grand stage to show­case the grow­ing strength and depth of the game in the Far East.

Since the event’s in­au­gu­ra­tion in 1953, which was ini­tially known as the Canada Cup, Asian na­tions have been crowned World Cup of Golf cham­pi­ons on three oc­ca­sions. To­ra­kichi Naka­mura and Koichi Ono of Ja­pan win­ning on home soil in 1957, fol­lowed by Chi­nese Taipei’s Lu Liang-huan and Hsieh Min-nan in Mel­bourne in 1972 and later a sec­ond Ja­panese tri­umph by Toshi Izawa and Shigeki Maruyama in Mex­ico, 2002.

All eyes will very much be on China’s Li Hao­tong and Wu Ashun who teamed up bril­liantly to fin­ish tied for sec­ond in Mel­bourne two years ago. They will forge their part­ner­ship again this month and with their form very much in­tact – both have won on the Euro­pean Tour this year - much is ex­pected from the dy­namic Chi­nese duo.

“We en­joyed our­selves two years ago. With some luck, we could have won, so we'll go there with the aim to chal­lenge for a win. To have the chance to rep­re­sent China again makes me very happy and we’ll do our best to make China proud,” said Wu, who won his third Euro­pean Tour vic­tory in the Nether­lands in Septem­ber.

In­dia’s Anir­ban Lahiri and the new kid on the block,

Shub­hankar Sharma, could po­ten­tially pro­vide a pow­er­ful part­ner­ship in the World Cup of Golf as well. Lahiri, now an es­tab­lished PGA TOUR reg­u­lar, reck­ons they could po­ten­tially be­come strong part­ners too for the Pres­i­dents Cup which will also be staged at Royal Mel­bourne in De­cem­ber 2019.

“It’s very spe­cial, I’m very ex­cited,” said Lahiri, 31. “Both of us are ex­cited. We made up our minds ear­lier that if ei­ther of us fin­ished on top (of the world rank­ing to qual­ify for the World Cup of Golf), we would pick the other. We could be play­ing a lot of World Cups to­gether, some Olympics to­gether and even the Pres­i­dents Cup to­gether. I see the po­ten­tial of our part­ner­ship be­ing over a long pe­riod of time. We are very sim­i­lar in how we play, he’s very con­sis­tent, he’s young and fear­less.”

Sharma, nine years Lahiri’s ju­nior, echoed the same sen­ti­ments. “It’ll be a lot of fun, it’ll be a mat­ter of pride. Anir­ban has played at the high­est stage on the PGA TOUR, he is a great player. He’s in­flu­enced me a lot in my ca­reer, and I feel it can be a great part­ner­ship. If we can get into the Pres­i­dents Cup to­gether, that would be the dream.”

Ki­radech Aphibarn­rat, the first Thai to earn a PGA TOUR card for the 2018-19 sea­son, has picked best friend Prom Mee­sawat, a two-time Asian Tour win­ner, as his part­ner as they at­tempt to im­press at The Met­ro­pol­i­tan. Win­ning the World Cup of Golf for the first time for the King­dom will have unimag­in­able con­se­quences for the growth of the game, says Ki­radech.

“If we can win the World Cup, it’ll mean a lot. We’re play­ing for our coun­try. We’re not play­ing only for our­selves, or for our cad­dies… we’re play­ing for 70 mil­lion Thai peo­ple. We’ve got the Thai flag on our chest. There’ll be more pres­sure that we have to han­dle play­ing for our coun­try. If you win the World Cup, ev­ery­one will know you are from that coun­try,” said Ki­radech.

Other Asian part­ner­ships to look out for at the World Cup of Golf in­clude Korea’s Byeonghun An and Si Woo Kim, the 2017 PLAY­ERS Cham­pion, Ja­pan’s Satoshi Ko­daira and Hideto Tani­hara and Malaysia’s Gavin Green and Ben Leong.

An, who is now play­ing in his third sea­son on the PGA TOUR, said the World Cup of Golf could also be a nice pre­lude to his hopes of break­ing into the In­ter­na­tional team for the Pres­i­dents Cup. “I missed last two Pres­i­dents Cup, so I would love to play for the In­ter­na­tion­als next year,” said An, a for­mer U.S. Amateur cham­pion.

Green, the Asian Tour No. 1 in 2017, was ec­static to earn his first ap­pear­ance in the World Cup of Golf as his ca­reer con­tin­ues to trend up­wards. “It’s amaz­ing that I’ve qual­i­fied for the World Cup of Golf. I’ve al­ways wanted to play in the event and to have the op­por­tu­nity to rep­re­sent Malaysia.”

Pride and pas­sion, na­tion vs na­tion will very much be the main theme at the ISPS HANDA Mel­bourne World Cup of Golf, and Asia’s lead­ing golfers will be aim­ing to bring hon­our and glory to their re­spec­tive na­tions.

Ki­radech Aphibarn­rat, the first Thai to earn a PGA TOURcard for the 2018-19 sea­son

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