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October 11, 2018

Pakistan rejoins Asian Tour as UMA-CNS Open tees off today


October 11, 2018

KARACHI: Ilija Djurdjevic is one of the longest hitters in the world. Last year, the unassuming Serbian blasted one to a whopping 470 yards – his personal record.But when the US$300,000 UMA-CNS Open Asian Tour Golf Championship tees off here at the Karachi Golf Club on Thursday, Djurdjevic won’t be one of the favourites to win the title.

Instead a host of well-rounded professionals from countries like Thailand, Australia, India and Singapore would be in contention for the crown on a course where long hitters can only stay in the hunt if they stay on the fairway.

Thailand’s duo of Suradit Yongcharoenchai, the highest-ranked golfer in the 132-man field, and Tirawat Kaewsiribandit lead the pack in which top Pakistani professionals like Shabbir Iqbal, the country’s number one, would also be hoping to making their presence felt.

Also fancying their chances from the host country would be Matloob Ahmed, Waheed Baloch, Muhammad Munir, Muhammad Ashfaq and Hmaza Amin. No Pakistani has ever won an Asian Tour event at home but the local challenge seems capable of giving the foreign aspirants a run for their money.

Suradit, meanwhile, will enter the tournament as the highest-ranked player both on the Asian Tour Habitat for Humanity Standings and the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR). With his card for the 2019 season, virtually secured, the 19-year-old will be gunning for victory.

Professionals from 18 nations would be featuring in the four-day championship and the field includes at least five former Asian Tour winners. The players come from countries like India, Singapore, USA, Austria, Spain, Serbia, Australia, England, Argentina, South Africa and Venezuela.

A total of 61 foreigners have joined 71 local challengers which include four amateurs from Pakistan’s national team.The competing professionals were all getting ready to negotiate the narrow fairways and tricky greens of the picturesque KGC.

Among the title aspirants is 51-year-old Mardan Mamat of Singapore who will be bringing his renewed sense of confidence to the championship.Mardan is happy with the current state of his game after he made a successful foray into the European Senior Tour this year.

Coupled with a pair of good results in the last two events in Chinese Taipei, the 50-year-old Mardan feels that he is ready for an excellent finish, if not a win at the Karachi Golf Club.“Firstly, it’s nice to be back here after such a long time! I played this course in 2006 and it is pretty much the same, although the trees have grown taller. The hospitality has been great and the people have tried their best to make our stay here comfortable,” said Mamat.

“My goal is to get back into the winner’s circle. I need to grind and get a win.”Mardan, Singapore’s most decorated professional golf player, is also proud to see his young compatriots Gregory Foo and Abdul Hadi joining the play-for-pay ranks. The duo will be playing in the UMA CNS Open Golf Championship on an invite.

Foo has never played in Pakistan and he will be competing with a fresh mindset along with a new status.India’s Chiragh Kumar hopes to lift his game in the UMA-CNS Open.“It’s fantastic that the Asian Tour has come back to Pakistan after a long spell. I really hope that the tournament is here to stay. I have a geographical affinity to the country, being from India. We know so many people here and the hospitality is great. I’m excited to be here.

“I’ve been performing far below my expectations this year. It has been tough and I don’t know where things have gone wrong. But I’m hoping for a good finish and get my confidence up. There are still a good number of tournaments left. I want to make a charge to keep my card. That’s what I’m looking for.”

Australia’s Marcus Both who won his maiden Asian Tour title back in 2003, at the Sanya Open, believes the “old-styled” KGC course would suit his game.“It’s been a while since the Asian Tour last had a tournament here, but I can remember so much about it. I can still recall back in 2006, my roommate Chris Rodgers graduated from Q School, won a tournament the following week here in Pakistan and enjoyed the benefits that came with it. I also remember the course being really strategic, which is right up my alley. Karachi Golf Club’s course is old-style and it’s great to see it featured on our schedule,” he said.

Meanwhile, the organisers of the championship held a press conference here at the KGC to announce details of the event. The press conference was followed by the prize distribution ceremony of the Pro-Am event of the UMA-CNS Open Asian Tour Championship. A total of 120 players including 30 foreign pros competed in the event. They were divided into 30 teams. Team KGC and Team UMA were victorious in the net and gross categories.

“It is a great occasion to see that the Asian Tour has returned to Pakistan,” commented Sohail Shams, CEO of United Marine Agencies (UMA). Also present at the occasion were Rear Admiral Adnan Khaliq, KGC Vice President Hussain Haroon, Asian Tour COO Cho Minn Thant, CO Bahadur Commodore Mushtaq Ahmed and Hamza Amin.

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