Nov 17, 2018: Team competitions often bring out the best from athletes, especially when they proudly put on the national flag to represent their countries. Such a privilege can evoke an overflow of passion, competitive spirit and pride that subsequently create a wonderful theater for sports fans to enjoy and celebrate.
In golf, the opportunity to represent your country in a team competition is few and far in between as the professional circuits, from the PGA Tour to the domestic tours around the world, regularly see golfers battling it out for individual honors on a weekly basis.
Later this month in Melbourne, Australia, some 56 of the finest golfers in the world will team up to represent 28 countries to vie for one of the most prized team trophies, the World Cup of Golf.
It is a team competition rich in history and tradition where past winning partnerships include great names, such as of Ben Hogan-Sam Snead, Peter Thomson-Kel Nagle, Arnold Palmer-Jack Nicklaus, David Duval-Tiger Woods, Davis Love III-Fred Couples and Ernie Els-Retief Goosen.
For the Asian nations, the ISPS Handa Melbourne World Cup of Golf at The Metropolitan Golf Club from November 22 to 25 will offer another great stage to showcase the growing strength and depth of the game in the Far East.
Since the event’s inauguration in 1953, which was initially known as the Canada Cup, Asian nations have been crowned World Cup of Golf champions on three occasions, with Torakichi Nakamura-Koichi Ono of Japan winning on home soil in 1957, followed by Chinese Taipei’s Lu Liang-huan-Hsieh Min-nan in Melbourne in 1972 and later a second Japanese triumph by Toshi Izawa-Shigeki Maruyama in Mexico in 2002.
All eyes will very much be on China’s Li Haotong and Wu Ashun who teamed up brilliantly to finish tied for second in Melbourne two years ago. They will forge their partnership and with their form very much intact—both have won on the European Tour this year—much is expected from the Chinese dynamic duo.
“We enjoyed ourselves two years ago. With some luck, we could have won, so we’ll go there with the aim to challenge for a win. To have the chance to represent China again makes me very happy and we’ll do our best to make China proud,” said Wu, who won his third European Tour victory in the Netherlands in September.
India’s Anirban Lahiri and Gaganjeet Bhullar could potentially provide a powerful partnership in the World Cup of Golf, as well. Lahiri, now an established PGA Tour regular, said: “It’s very special, I’m very excited,” said Lahiri, 31.
Bhullar, a nine-time Asian Tour winner, said: “This will be my second event in the World Cup with my previous one being with Anirban, so we really gel on the golf course. We’ve played a lot of junior and amateur golf together and understand each other’s game plan really well so I’m looking forward to the World Cup.”
Kiradech Aphibarnrat, the first Thai to earn a PGA Tour card for the 2018-2019 season, has picked best friend Prom Meesawat, a two-time Asian Tour winner, as his partner as they attempt to impress at The Metropolitan. Winning the World Cup of Golf for the first time will have unimaginable consequences for the growth of the game, Kiradech said.
“If we can win the World Cup, it’ll mean a lot. We’re playing for our country. We’re not playing only for ourselves, or for our caddies…we’re playing for 70 million Thai people. We’ve got the Thai flag on our chest. There’ll be more pressure that we have to handle playing for our country. If you win the World Cup, everyone will know you are from that country,” said Kiradech.
Other Asian partnerships to look out for at the World Cup of Golf include South Korea’s Byeong-hun An-Si-woo Kim, the 2017 Players Champion, Japan’s Satoshi Kodaira-Hideto Tanihara and Malaysia’s Gavin Green-Ben Leong.
An, who is now playing in his third season on the PGA Tour, said the World Cup of Golf could also be a nice prelude to his hopes of breaking into the International team for the Presidents Cup. “I missed last two Presidents Cup, so I would love to play for the Internationals next year” said An, a former US Amateur champion.
Green, the Asian Tour No. 1 in 2017, was ecstatic to earn his first appearance in the World Cup of Golf as his career continues to trend upward. “It’s amazing that I’ve qualified for the World Cup of Golf. I’ve always wanted to play in the event and to have the opportunity to represent Malaysia.”
Pride and passion, nation versus nation will very much be the main theme at the ISPS Handa Melbourne World Cup of Golf and Asia’s leading golfers will be aiming to bring honor and glory to their respective nations.