Thai golfer Thaworn Wiratchant will attempt to pen another chapter for himself in the annals of European Tour golfing history this week when he defends his title in the Enjoy Jakarta HSBC Indonesia Open.
Victory 12 months ago saw the 39 year old follow in the footsteps of his compatriot Thongchai Jaidee by becoming only the second Thai to win on The European Tour. Jaidee made his winning breakthrough in the 2004 Carlsberg Malaysian Open and went on to successfully defend the title the following year, a feat Wiratchant will be hoping to replicate this weekend in the Indonesian capital.
The only difference Wiratchant faces is the fact he will have to defend at a different venue. A year ago, the lover of fast cars was truly in overdrive at the Cengkareng Golf Club, posting three rounds of 63 on his way to a 25 under par total of 255 and a five shot winning margin over Frenchman Raphaël Jacquelin.
This time round the tournament has moved across Jakarta to the Emeralda Golf & Country Club, coinciding with the tournament aligning itself with new sponsors HSBC, meaning the international bank is now involved with three tournaments on The European Tour International Schedule, the other two being the HSBC Champions in Shanghai and the HSBC World Match Play Championship at Wentworth Club.
Wiratchant admitted he was looking forward to the challenge presented by the co-sanctioned event between The European Tour and the Asian Tour. “Winning the Indonesia Open last year was the highlight of my career so far because it was always my ambition to win a European Tour event,” said the man who also enjoyed a highly successful amateur career which included eight victories.
“I have great memories of playing in Jakarta and I am delighted to be returning to defend my title even though we are at a different course. It will be a strong field, but I will give it my best as always.”
Wiratchant’s compatriot Jaidee will again prove a major threat as will China’s Lian-Wei Zhang, who has also tasted success on The European Tour when he memorably birdied the final hole at Laguna National Golf & Country Club in Singapore to pip Ernie Els to the 2003 Caltex Singapore Masters title.
However, there is an abundance of European talent assembling in Indonesia too, all determined to challenge for the lion’s share of the US$1 million prize fund.
Leading the way are two former winner of the PGA Championship title at Wentworth Club, Spain’s Ignacio Garrido and Anders Hansen of Denmark, alongside Stephen Dodd of Wales, who capped his best ever season in 2005 – which included victories in the Volvo China Open and the Nissan Irish Open – by helping his nation win the WGC – Algarve World Cup in Portugal last November.
The staging of the tournament will also represent another big step forward in helping Indonesia as a whole return to normality after the horrors of the Boxing Day Tsunami which devastated the country towards the end of 2004 and which saw more than 125,000 people lose their lives.
During last year’s tournament Paul McGinley and Colin Montgomerie presented a cheque for $100,000 from The European Tour International Relief Golf Fund to the Bank of Indonesia for the Tsunami Aid Appeal and in addition to that, a further $40,000 was raised from a charity auction during the Pro-Am dinner where Ryder Cup memorabilia, signed flags and other items were put under the hammer.
It is planned that further donations from the Fund will be made to the Aceh Primary Care Clinic Programme, which is supported by HSBC and raises money to build clinics in the hugely affected Aceh region, during this year’s event, the 12th counting tournament on The 2006 European Tour Order of Merit.
Governor Sutiyoso of Jakarta, said: “Last year’s event was a major success even though it was organised in the most difficult of circumstances. We are confident that the Enjoy Jakarta HSBC Indonesia Open 2006 will be even better this time around.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for Jakarta in particular and Indonesia in general to showcase their attractions to the rest of the world and portray themselves in a positive light.”