| 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.
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