Bangkok, Thailand: The China LPGA Tour has expanded into new territory with this week’s PTT Thailand LPGA Masters at Panya Indra Golf Club in the Thai capital.
For the first time, the fifth edition of the four million baht (about US$120,000) tournament is being tri-sanctioned by the China LPGA Tour, the Australian LPGA and the Thai LPGA.
With a field of 114 players from 16 countries and territories, the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT), PTT Group and Singha Corporation-sponsored event is considered the last significant tournament of the 2017 Thai LPGA season.
The field consists of 44 China LPGA Tour players, 40 Thai LPGA Tour players, 20 from the Australian LPGA Tour and 10 sponsor invites, all of whom are eligible to earn Women’s World Golf Ranking points this week.
It’s the second China LPGA Tour event to be staged outside of China after the 2015 Australia Classic.
With Thai players having played a significant role in the development of the China LPGA Tour, TK Pen, the circuit’s founder and chairman, said it was only natural to expand into the ‘Land of Smiles’.
He noted Thai players participated in the inaugural China event, the CLPGA Orient Masters in 2004,and said this week’s tournament is important in promoting the exchange of golf culture and friendship between the two countries.
“In the early days of the establishment of the China Tour we were lacking players and the Thai players came to China to help smooth the development of the events – the Thai referees came to China as well,” Pen said.
“Now we are very excited to bring the Women’s World Golf Rankings to the Thai LPGA Tour for the first time in the fifth year of the PTT Thailand LPGA Masters.”
Thai players have won 23 of the 103 China LPGA Tour events to date. Among those who have developed their game and starred on the Tour are US LPGA Tour players Pornanong Phatlum and PK Kongkraphan, Japan LPGA Tour regular Porani Chutichai, and rising star Saranporn Langkulgasettrin, the current China LPGA Tour Order of Merit leader, a winner in Zhuhai and Wuhan, among others.
Pen said: “After 12 years, China has become the second home of the Thai players. Nowadays there are 300 China LPGA members of which 47 are Thai players. Over the years, nine Thai players have developed their game to play on the US LPGA Tour or Japan LPGA Tour. The China LPGA Tour is a very important athletic platform for Thai players.”
Pen said this week’s tournament is the first time the Tour has staged an event in a ‘Belt and Road country’ and added that such co-operation conformed to the ‘going out’ development strategy of the China LPGA Tour to constantly expand golf communication.
“It also gives more opportunities for China LPGA Tour players to compete with excellent foreign golfers. Such competition can stimulate them to go outside and step upward to be world-class players,” he said.
“Golf in Thailand has developed rapidly in recent years and the PTT Thailand LPGA Masters is a chance for the two countries to learn from each other.”
Wiboon Champangeun, Director of SAT’s professional sports development division, said the authority was pleased to be co-sponsoring the tournament as it was important to stage events of international standard to promote Thailand as a leading sports hub in the region.
“The tournament is also a stage for Thai players to show their potential and performance in order for them to step upward to be world-class players,” he said. “We hope that the 2017 edition will reach its objectives and earn the utmost success.”
Panya Indra Golf Club is a 27-hole facility designed by Ron Fream. The club is 40 minutes north-east of Bangkok city centre.