ASIAN GOLF INDUSTRY FEDERATION

Spotlight on Hong Kong Golf Club

Star players Talor Gooch, Cameron Smith, Taichi Kho and Miguel Tabuena with Hong Kong Open dignitaries. Picture by Paul Lakatos/ASsian Tour.

Hong Kong: The golfing world’s attention turns to Fanling this week and the return of the Hong Kong Open with a field that boasts some of the greats of the modern game including 2022 Open champion Cameron Smith, reigning LIV Golf League individual champion Talor Gooch, 2018 Masters winner Patrick Reed and local hero Taichi Kho.

The parade of stars continues at the Hong Kong Golf Club (HKGC) with reigning champion and two-time winner Wade Ormsby returning in search of a third win to put him amongst the lofty ranks of Miguel Angel Jimenez (four), Hsieh Yung-yo (four) and Peter Thomson (three).

The 2010 US Open winner Graeme McDowell and LIV Golf headliners Harold Varner III, Belgian Thomas Pieters and Spain’s Eugenio Chacarra are also on board and ready to put on a show.

They are part of a field of 132 golfers representing 32 countries and territories from Australia to Zimbabwe – all ready, willing and able to help Hong Kong’s longest-running professional sporting event light up the HKGC’s famed Composite Course after a pandemic-enforced absence of almost four years.

Fittingly, given the nature of the field and the history behind the tournament, the 2023 Hong Kong Open has been afforded International Series status – meaning it’s now one of 10 elite-level tournaments sanctioned by the Asian Tour.

As the penultimate event of The International Series schedule and the fourth from last event on the main schedule, the Hong Kong Open will go a long way to deciding who finishes in the upper reaches of both The International Series and Asian Tour Order of Merit (OOM) standings.

The International Series OOM winner will gain direct entry onto the lucrative LIV Golf League and the next 32 eligible players will have the chance to fight it out for three additional places next season via a recently announced LIV Golf Promotions event which will take place in Abu Dhabi from December 8-10.

With a prize pool of US$2 million to play for, and the chance to join a lengthy list of legendary Hong Kong Open champions that dates back to 1959, the stars are ready to shine.

“I’m excited,” said Smith, last in town as an up-and-comer in 2014 when he finished tied ninth – and now returning as a Major champion. 

“I love the golf course and I can’t wait to get out there and hopefully get a Hong Kong Open victory under the belt. I love the fact that The International Series has gone to different parts of the world, I have been keeping an eye on it and I think it’s great.”

Gooch will be making his Hong Kong Open debut after a season that featured a record-setting three victories on the LIV Golf League’s regular schedule for the American, plus two top-10 finishes – and a healthy US$18 million as a bonus for finishing the season as LIV Golf’s leading individual player.

“When I was offered the opportunity to play in my first Hong Kong Open, I was jumping at it,” said Gooch. “I’m excited to get there and just to see Hong Kong. I’ve heard a lot about the golf course.

“It’s incredible that the same event has been hosted at the same course [since 1959]. That’s a testament to the golf course, but also a testament to the community and the club and everyone in Hong Kong that rallies around the tournament.”

Reed, meanwhile, is returning for his fourth visit to a course that he took to instantly with a tied-for-third effort on debut in 2015, behind winner Justin Rose and Lucas Bjerregaard

The American has been back twice since then (2016, 2018), and was named in the field for the 2021 tournament, which was cancelled due to the pandemic. Hong Kong is a city he has taken to heart, along with the fans who flock to Fanling.

“When my wife and I came over for the first time, we fell in love with not just the golf course, but Hong Kong and the people,” he said. 

“The hospitality was top notch, as was the support from the fans coming out to watch us play. You have such amazing fans and such amazing turnout, it gives you that little extra drive to go out and play well and, and to perform and play for them.”

Flying the SAR flag high will be local star Kho, coming off a history-making rookie season on the Asian Tour already. 

Taichi Kho faces the media ahead of this week’s of Hong Kong Open. Picture by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour.

The 22-year-old became the first-ever player from Hong Kong to win an Asian Tour tournament at the World City Championship presented by Hong Kong Golf Club at Fanling in March. He has followed that up with three top-10 finishes and more history with his gold medal at the Asian Games, another first for the city. 

Kho’s performances have been an inspiration for Hong Kong’s ever-increasing band of young stars – and he’s happy to be at the forefront of the game’s local development.

He said: “It’s really good to see any Hong Kong player do well. I feel like Hong Kong has so much potential. Hopefully, my win has kick-started a little bit of that. There’s definitely momentum growing so I’m really looking forward to seeing what we can achieve.”

Joining Kho at the Hong Kong Open are a couple of compatriots from the men’s golf squad of Hong Kong, China who took an equally historic bronze from Hangzhou, with fellow Asian Tour pro Matthew Cheung and Terrence Ng returning to Fanling. 

They complement a top-flight field of China golfers appearing at the Hong Kong Open with Chen Guxin, who finished tied for second with Kho at the Volvo China Open last weekend, as well as multiple European and Japan Tour winner Wu Ashun

As well as the world-class golf, the Hong Kong Open’s Fan Village will once again entertain tens of thousands of visitors across event week with a host of activities and entertainment including yoga sessions, art workshops, golf simulators and other sport games, premier food and beverage offerings, shopping, face painting and more.

The Hong Kong Golf Club is a Facility Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation.

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