Hua Hin, Thailand: A total of 646 players from across the globe are heading to school this week on the first steps to gaining playing rights on the 2016 Asian Tour.
The Asian Tour Qualifying School, presented by Sports Authority of Thailand, has attracted entries from more than 40 countries.
Korea contributes the highest number of players with 107 entries, followed by Thailand (84), United States (77), Japan (71), Australia (61), England (38), India (31), Chinese Taipei (19), Malaysia (17), Canada and South Africa (12 each), Philippines and Sweden (11 each), New Zealand and Singapore (10 each), Indonesia (eight), Spain (seven) and Scotland (six).
Other countries represented are China, France, Italy and Zimbabwe (five each), Denmark and Germany (four each), Finland and Sri Lanka (three each), Austria, Ireland, Myanmar and Switzerland (two each).
There is one player apiece from Brunei, Columbia, Guam, Hong Kong, Kenya, Monaco, Pakistan, Portugal, Uruguay, Venezuela, Vietnam and Wales.
The 2016 Asian Tour Qualifying School is being held over a two-week period with the First Stage starting today.
A total of 491 hopefuls will tee-up for the First Stage which will be conducted across four different courses – Windsor Park Golf Club in Bangkok, Springfield Royal Country Club (Course C and B), Imperial Lakeview Golf Club (Course A and B) and Imperial Lakeview Golf Club (Course C and D) in Hua Hin.
The number of players from First Stage who will join 155 other players, who are already exempted to the Final Stage, will only be decided when all players have teed-off for the opening round.
The Final Stage will be held at Imperial Lakeview and Springfield Royal from January 13-16 with the top-40 and ties after four rounds earning their Tour cards for the 2016 season.
Among the notable names in the First Stage are Scotsman James Byrne, Swede Malcolm Kokocinski, Thai Annop Tangkamolprasert, England’s Chris Cannon, Australian Darren Tan and American Paul Harris.
The Asian Tour has announced the first half of its 2016 schedule, which consists of tournaments in Singapore, Malaysia, India, Australia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Thailand, along with the Asian Development Tour’s (ADT) provisional schedule of 22 events.
Players who compete in the 2016 Qualifying School will also be eligible to play on the ADT, which staged 28 tournaments in 2015. The ADT will continue to offer Official World Golf Ranking points which will be vital for players fighting to qualify for this year’s Olympic Games.
In recent years the Asian Tour Qualifying School has proved to be a springboard to success for many of the region’s big names such as Thais Thongchai Jaidee, a three-time Order of Merit champion, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Asia’s number one in 2013, as well as reigning Order of Merit champion Anirban Lahiri of India.