Kulim [KEDAH], July 19: His hopes of playing in the Olympic Games may have been dashed but Malaysia’s Nicholas Fung aims to bounce back strongly as he headlines a strong field at the inaugural Jimei Korea Kulim Championship, which tees off Wednesday.
Backed by Korean investment firm Jimei Korea, the US$150,000 tournament jointly-sanctioned with the Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) Tour looks set to light up the 10th anniversary season of the ASEAN PGA Tour.
Tucked at the heart of the industrial enclave of Kulim, the Kulim Golf & Country Resort will play host to a full field of 144 players, with leading professionals from seven ASEAN nations including Malaysia as well as 50 invitational slots for Korean players.
Four-time ASEAN PGA Tour winner Mardan Mamat and former Order of Merit champions Kwanchai Tannin and Gunn Charoenkul are among the top draws this week competing, for the top prize of US$24,300.
Fung came close to securing a dream start in Rio when he led the Yeangder Tournament Players Championship in Chinese Taipei earlier this month but a tied third finish meant that he was unable to usurp compatriot Gavin Kyle Green on the Official World Golf Ranking before the qualification deadline.
Though disappointed, the 26-year-old is deeply motivated as he seeks a third victory on the Tour where he first cut his teeth as a fledgling professional.
“It is still a sore point [missing out on the Olympic boat] but as a Malaysian, I am delighted that we are ensured of maximum participation through Danny [Chia] and Gavin. I’m sure I have a few more Olympics in me and I’m looking forward to that with much optimism,” said Fung.
“I’ve had two top-five finishes in the last month, so I think I’m due for a victory. The course isn’t playing so long and is pretty tight at places, which should suit my game. My last win on the ASEAN [PGA Tour] was almost four years ago in Palembang, so I plan to give myself a good chance this week,” noted Fung, who won the Order of Merit in 2012.
Speaking ahead of the tournament, ASEAN PGA Tour executive chairman A.C.Wong was enthusiastic about the prize money on offer this week, which is the second highest in the 10-year history of the Tour, matching the US$150,000 on offer at the Palembang Musi Championship in 2012.
“The Jumei Korea Kulim Championship represents a great opportunity for our members as well as the Malaysian and Korean professionals participating as we build on what is expected to be a successful 10th anniversary season of the ASEAN PGA Tour.
“The ASEAN PGA Tour was launched in 2007 with the objective of providing more playing opportunities for up and coming professionals from the ASEAN region and after a decade, we are setting a new benchmark with the prize money reaching US$150,000 and we hope this is the standard going forth for the benefit of our members,” noted Wong.