Thongchai: Masters invite an honour

The 2012 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship tees off on Thursday with a Major incentive for the winner.

Golf News: Augusta National.

By Marcus Chhan

Organised by the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC), the Masters Tournament and The R&A, the winner is invited to compete at next year's Masters.

"Playing the Masters at Augusta is one of the great honours of golf," Thai golfing legend Thongchai Jaidee told ESPNSTAR.com.

Thongchai has played at the Masters before and his advice to the amateur who goes on to win the 2012 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship is to treat their Augusta reward as a career investment.

"Enjoy the experience as much as possible, soak up the atmosphere, the tradition and the environment," he said.

"Take the opportunity to speak to the professionals and learn from them and their experiences. You learn a huge amount every time you play the tournament, none more so than the first time.

"The lucky winner of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship should consider their trip to Augusta as an investment in the future, an opportunity to learn about the course, the layout and of course the greens."

The odds-on favourite to take the fourth edition of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, which is being held at Amata Spring Country Club in Thailand, has to be Japanese starlet Hideki Matsuyama.

The 20-year-old won the event in Japan in 2010 and Singapore in 2011 to earn his invitations to the Masters. There he did not disappoint. At Augusta in 2011, he finished 27th to win the Silver Cup as low amateur and he again made the cut in April 2012 - he finished 54th that year.

Standing in Matsuyama's way of a third trip to golf's most celebrated golf courses will be a host of Thai players. As the Tournament Ambassador for this year's Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, Thongchai is confident the home course as well as home crowd advantage will spur his countrymen to success at Amata.

Out of the eight Thai players at this year's event, Poom Saksansin and Natipong Srithong are considered the strongest.

"Poom Saksansin is Thailand's number one amateur. He won a gold medal in the Putra Cup in 2010 and has been improving year on year. He will definitely be one to watch at Amata," Thongchai said.

"Natipong Srithong is the 2011 SEA Games individual silver medallist so is used to playing on the big stage. He performed brilliantly to win the 2011 Indonesian Amateur Open against a strong field so I am tipping him to be in the final group on the last day."

The champion and runners-up also both earn spots at the International Final Qualifying (IFQ) - Asia for The Open Championship.

You can follow Marcus on his Twitter account @MarcusChhan for more insights from the world of sport.



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