Asian Tour hits top marks in 2011

The Asian Tour's scorecard for its just-concluded 2011 season makes impressive reading with Filipino history-maker Juvic Pagunsan topping the charts.

Juvic Pagunsan

The region's elite circuit hailed Pagunsan as its new Order of Merit champion where he became the first man from the Philippines in Asian Tour history to be crowned the region's numero uno.

A total of 24 tournaments were sanctioned by the Asian Tour this year with a cumulative prize fund of US$50 million which was an all-time high.

This was due largely to a Schedule which included four new events, the Indonesian Masters, Panasonic Open India, CJ Invitational hosted by KJ Choi and the season-ending Thailand Golf Championship.

Two other tournaments, the ICTSI Philippine Open and Macau Open presented by Cityneon, also made welcome returns onto the Schedule as well.

Through a widespread of playing opportunities that stretched from the Far East in Japan all the way to Switzerland, Pagunsan stole the show, thanks largely to a November to remember.

Entering the month, the sweet-swinging 33-year-old Filipino languished in 64th spot on the Merit list but rose to prominence with a second place finish at the US$6 million Barclays Singapore Open, losing in a play-off which came with a whopping US$666,660 cheque.

Three other top-10s in Taipei, Hong Kong and Singapore saw him end his magical season with earnings of US$788,298.

"Without the Asian Tour, there will be no Juvic Pagunsan," said the Filipino.

"I'm feeling very happy to be the first Filipino to win this prestigious award. I cannot believe that I can win the Order of Merit award."

Asia's elite circuit also heralded five first-time winners in Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, Anirban Lahiri and Himmat Rai of India, Joonas Granberg of Finland and American Berry Henson.

Granberg and Henson were amongst the Qualifying School graduates who enjoyed successful rookie seasons, along with 2011 Rookie of the Year Tjaart Van Der Walt of South Africa.

With a new wave of exciting young Asian players emerging onto the scene with newcomers Chiragh Kumar of India, Panuphol Pittayarat of Thailand, Miguel Tabuena of Philippines, Thanyakorn Khronghpha of Thailand shining, the future of Asian golf looks safe in their hands.

Another top performer of 2011 was Lu Wei-chih of Chinese Taipei, who won the Yeangder TPC and Mercuries Taiwan Masters, the only Asian player to win multiple titles this season along. World number two Lee Westwood also triumphed twice in the Indonesian Masters and Thailand Golf Championship.

Asian Tour Executive Chairman Kyi Hla Han said the 2011 season will be remembered very much for Pagunsan's stunning rise to the top as well as the circuit attracting a string of new tournaments and three new Tour Partners - Rolex, Starwood Hotels and Resorts and Cityneon.

"Our fullest congratulations to Juvic Pagunsan for winning our Order of Merit. It is tremendous that we herald our first number one from the Philippines and I believe it will greatly inspire other Filipinos to follow in his footsteps," said Han.

"We certainly enjoyed a memorable 2011 season with a wide-range of tournaments and lucrative purses on offer across the region for our talented membership. Through these tournaments, we witnessed the emergence of many new champions as well as talented young players, who will be the flagbearers of Asian golf for the years to come.

"The launch of four new tournaments and the return of the Philippine Open and Macau Open continue to reflect Corporate Asia's firm support behind the Asian Tour and our ambition to grow the game at the highest level in this region," added Han.

Outside the ropes, coverage of the Asian Tour on television increased by many folds that it now reaches over 200 countries and 850 million households around the world.

The Asian Tour's television footprint was also greatly enhanced with new broadcasting agreements announced with the Golf Channel in North America, Latin America and Japan. 



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