The 2013 Nedbank Golf Challenge will feature only the fifth Asian golfer to compete in the 32-year history of this tournament when Thailand’s Thaworn Wiratchant tees it up at the Gary Player Country Club from 5-8 December.
Wiratchant qualifies through the expanded criteria that include a place in the 30-man field for the winner of the 2012 Asian Tour Order of Merit. The Thai golfer won three times on the Asian Tour in 2012 on his way to finishing top of the Order of Merit. Wiratchant tops the list of all-time Asian Tour victories with his 15 titles.
He follows a proud tradition of some of Asia’s finest golfers to compete in the Nedbank Golf Challenge, including South Korea’s Kim Kyung-Tae and KJ Choi, Taiwan’s TC Chen and Japanese legend Isao Aoki.
“We are proud to continue our longstanding association with Asian golf by welcoming Thaworn to our 2013 field,” said Alastair Roper, the Tournament Director for Sun International’s Nedbank Golf Challenge. “Asia is a very important television market for us, and also a vital tourism market for South Africa and Sun International.”
Wiratchant became the oldest winner of the Asian Tour Order of Merit at the age of 45 in 2012. He is also only the second Thai golfer to win a European Tour event after Thongchai Jaidee with his victory in the 2005 Indonesia Open, co-sanctioned with the European Tour.
Wiratchant’s historic 2012 Asian Tour season saw him rewarded with several accolades, including the Players’ Player of the Year Award and a Special Achievement Award.
This year, the golfer known as the “Iron Man” of the Asian game also made his debut in the Masters at the age of 46.
Born in Nakhon, Prathorn in Thailand, Wiratchant was first introduced to golf through his parents’ job at the Army Golf Club in Bangkok. He developed his own unorthodox swing, which features an exaggerated backswing. “It worked for me in my amateur career and it works for me now,” he once said of questions about his swing. And while his swing may be unorthodox, his short game is certainly deadly enough to make up for any shortcomings elsewhere.
Wiratchant’s amateur career, including victories in the Thailand Amateur Championship and Singapore Amateur Championship, did indeed provide a successful foundation upon which to enter the professional arena in 1987.
He won four times on the Asian Tour before a breakout season in 2005. That year Wiratchant won four times on the Asian Tour on his way to finishing top of the Order of Merit. He’s since had only one season where he’s gone winless.
Wiratchant is devoted to his practice regime and wakes at 5:20 each morning to begin work. “Every day I spend time training and I only spend time with my family on Sundays. There are new players coming in and I’m getting older,” he says.
Wiratchant cites black as his lucky colour, which on a golf course designed by the Black Knight himself could certainly work in his favour. His short game will also be an asset.
Born: 28 December 1966.
Turned pro: 1987.
Family: Wife – Kanpitcha.
Special interests: Snooker, football, cars.
Career highlights: Became the oldest winner of the Asian Tour Order of Merit at the age of 45 in 2012. He is also only the second Thai golfer to win a European Tour event after Thongchai Jaidee with his victory in the 2005 Indonesia Open, co-sanctioned with the European Tour.
2013 highlights: Made his debut in the Masters at the age of 46.
2013 Majors: The Masters – Missed Cut. The US Open – Did Not Play. The Open – Missed Cut. The PGA Championship – Did Not Play.
NGC record: Debut.