THE ROYAL TROPHY POISED FOR A CHINA CLASSIC
The Royal Trophy’s first visit to China later this month is certain to enhance the competition’s status as one of the truly unmissable events on the golfing calendar. The clamour from countries all over Asia to host the competition once the decision was taken to spread its wings from its spiritual home in the Kingdom of Thailand is a testament to the enormous popularity of the event.
After a visit to one of Asia’s geographically smallest kingdoms, the Sultanate of Brunei, it is fitting that the next destination should be the continent’s largest and most densely–populated country, underlining that this is a competition that all of Asia is eager to embrace.
The Europeans have been equally quick to acknowledge the Royal Trophy’s incredible growth. The players who have travelled to be a part of it reads like a who’s who of golf, including such legends as Seve Ballesteros, Sir Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam OBE, José Maria Olazábal, Colin Montgomerie OBE, Lee Westwood, and Darren Clarke.
And the list has been supplemented by Major champions Graeme McDowell and Paul Lawrie – who will be back for a second outing at the 54-hole picturesque Dragon Lake Golf Club in Guangzhou from 20-22 December – and a host of other European superstars including newly-crowned Order of Merit champion Henrik Stenson and current Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley.
McGinley’s appointment has completed a unique golfing Grand Slam. It means all four members of the Royal Trophy’s European Players Committee have also served as Ryder Cup captains, with the Irishman joining Faldo, Woosnam, and Olazábal in gaining that honour.
That all adds up to an impressive array of talent. But Asia has responded by calling on some of its own greatest golfers to take them on.
In addition to the finest Asian players of this generation – such as the continent’s first Major champion, Y.E. Yang, multiple Asian Order of Merit winners such as Thongchai Jaidee and Jeev Milkha Singh, and Japanese sensations Ryo Ishikawa and Hideki Matsuyama – other golfing greats have played crucial roles behind the scenes.
They include the two Japanese greats who have served as Asian Captains, Masahiro Kuramoto and Naomichi ‘Joe’ Ozaki, and legendary countryman Isao Aoki, who sits as Chairman on the Asian Players Committee with Ozaki and Singh.
The Japan Golf Tour has been a passionate supporter of the Royal Trophy right from its inception in 2006, fully sanctioning the event and supplying a host of players and administrators to ensure its rapid growth.
Given that roll call of golfing giants it is no wonder that in just seven years, the Royal Trophy has established itself as a spectacular and hugely entertaining showpiece, bringing together the finest golfers from Asia and Europe in Ryder Cup-style combat.
Its incredible popularity bears out the vision of Ryder Cup legend Ballesteros, who was a driving force in creating the Royal Trophy. The Spanish maestro, a five-time Major winner, predicted the competition would give Asian golf the sort of massive boost Europe enjoyed after taking over the role as America’s Ryder Cup opponents from the outclassed Great Britain and Ireland team in 1979.
How right he was. And Ballesteros found willing support from all over Asia, and in particular from Thailand, with the country offering to host the first five matches, and His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej graciously donating the perpetual and impressive Royal Trophy.
Thailand continued to play its part, with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra hosting the teams at Government House before the inaugural tournament in 2006, with Seve, Faldo, Woosnam, Stenson and McDowell among those attending. So it is appropriate that the strong Thai connection will continue this year, with Thongchai and rising star Kiradech Aphibarnrat both selected for seventh edition of the Royal Trophy by newly-installed Captain Yang.
The setting for this latest battle could hardly be more appropriate, as China is acknowledged as the new powerhouse of global golf, with spectacular courses and big money tournaments regularly attracting the game’s finest players.
Guangzhou Municipality and Guangdong Province are eager to be at forefront of the developing golf market – and with a population of more than one hundred million and the largest GDP in the country, it certainly has the financial clout to make a huge impact.
With another top class field being assembled to add the Royal Trophy’s reputation for producing classic ‘match-play golf’, there is no doubt the competition will go from strength to strength.
“The Royal Trophy is the official, established and traditional golf competition between the continents of Asia and Europe. As Asian Players’ Committee Members, we uphold the stewardship of this magnificent competition with great diligence and determination,” stated the Royal Trophy Asian Players’ Committee Chairman and legendary Asian golfer Isao Aoki.
“We sincerely believe that it is of critical importance and significance that the golf community at-large, including the senior leadership of the game in the two continents comprehensively support this monumental championship,” concluded the highly-respected Asian golf ambassador.
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