The 2013 Asian Tour school is now completed and forty one players were successful in gaining their tour cards.
A record number of players entered (761) from thirty different countries. Japan (129) and Korea (121) had the largest representation followed by Australia (77), USA (67), Thailand (56) and Chinese Taipei (52).
Australia had the most players (8) to earn a tour card followed by Japan (5) USA and Thailand with (4).
Out of the total of forty one successful participants sixteen were from Asia and within that number six are from South East Asia.
As my business partner at Pro Tour Golf College Lawrie Montague and I have said many times; tour school is a tough business and you have to prepare properly for it. 761 entered 2013 Asian Tour School and only 41 got their cards. Thats just 5.38 percent that succeeded!
The winner of the final stage was Korean born American Chan Kim with a 13 under score of 272. He now has the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of many graduates in previous years who have gone on to bigger things.
The names that come straight to mind are Thonchai Jaidee and Charlie Wi. Thongchai is on the verge of breaking into the top 50 World Golf Ranking which will get him into all the majors for 2013 and Charlie is now an established player on the US PGA Tour, and is not far away from winning out there.
So the question is what is stopping more players from S.E. Asia from getting their Asian Tour Card?
Apart from host country Thailand, only Nicolas Fung (Malaysia) and Choo Tze Huang (Singapore) earned full cards for the first time from S.E.Asia. Both these players have been playing the OneAsia Tour the last couple of years and both had very good records as amateurs before turning professional.
Add these two players to the likes of Rory Hie (Indonesia), Miguel Tabuena (Philippines) and Siva Chandra (Malaysia) and you quickly realise that ability is not the issue.
All these players were literally world class junior golfers and in particular Rory Hei was the number two ranked junior on the US Junior Golf Tour infront of juniors like Rickie Fowler.
Rory, Miguel (Pictured) and Siva all missed their card by one solitary shot! Heart breaking in anyones language. So is it the pressure of competing at tour school?
Yes it has a big bearing, but all these players qualify for country exemptions which will get them automatic entry into most tournaments on the Asian Tour apart from the co-sanctioned tournaments.
Also most will get entry into the final stage of tour school and by pass the competitive 1st stage where over 600 players from the total entry of 761 have to negotiate. The two reasons above mentioned should allow them to play with an attitude of nothing to lose compared to the others.
But if you look at the background of the majority of those who gained their Asian Tour Card you will see that they have been professionals for at least five years and have played at a high level for most of that time.
Running through the names you come accross David Lutterus (Aust) who played on the US PGA Tour for two years (2008 & 2010) and Web.Com for another threee years. Miles Tunnicliff has been a regular on the European Tour for over ten years and has also won on that tour. Anton Haig from South Africa also played and won on the European Tour (Asian Johnny Walker).
Therefore experience is a major factor in helping players negotiate and handle the pressure at tour school but are there other factors holding back and in-fact limiting young S.E. Asian professionals from realising their full potential?
Yes there is, and it generally takes ten years for these professionals to figure it out and become successful on tour. A good case is Mardan Mamat a winner on the Asian and European Tours. In 1994 he was the best amateur in S.E. Asia after winning numerous tournaments in the region at the age of twenty four. In took him though until the age of thirty five to establish himself on tour and become a winner.
He and many like him from Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia work extrmely hard on their games but not on the right things that will help them achieve better results in less time.
The main focus is on improving golf swing technique mainly and the lack of high calibre wedge and greenside practice facilities does not help them to develop the scoring part of their game to the tour level standard.
With time and experience they do improve, but it takes them much longer to get to where they want to go.
Other factors include not having an annual periodization program in place that allows them to peak their golf games for important events during the year, and tour school would be high on the list.
A well designed periodization program will also help them to monitor and deal with physical and mental fatigue that significantly influences day to day performance.
Next on the list would be a "Tour Player Long Term Development Program" with benchmarks set in place for practice, competition and statistical monitoring and assessment throughout the year.
No one is doubting the ability or work ethic of the players from the South East Asian region but when they are competing against players from other parts of the world who have access to the best coaching practices, sports medicine support, biomechanical testing, and training programs designed for generating improvement, it makes it tough to compete against this standard.
Combine the above with financial management and travel planning know how, which are the basic tools required to make it on any major professional golf tour.
From this region Thailand is showing the way in professional golf with Thongchai Jaidee (European tour Winner) and Thawon Wirachant winner of the 2012 Asian Tour Order of Merit and recieving an invite to the US Masters in April.
The younger professional in Thailand now have great role models to inspire them to become world class professionals (Top 100 in world golf ranking).
Thailand also has a strong local tour to nuture and develop the professionals with the help of great sponsors like Singha and their subsidiary Sports Management Group.
Malaysia is folowing in Thailand's footsteps of developing a local tour. Professional Golf of Malaysia has put together a tournament schedule of 22 tournaments and a qualifying school every month. Total prize money is RM $4,103,250.00 (US$1,320,647.00) and will go a long way to giving the local professional the opportunity to develop their professional playing skills.
Will the other countries like Singapore, Philippines and Indonesia follow the lead of Thailand and Malaysia and develop their own Long-Term Player Development Programs?
Certainly interesting times ahead for South East Asia golf.
David Milne and Lawrie Montague - Pro Tour Golf College
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