Zander Lombard will look to make the most of a special invitation he received to play in the Thailand Golf Championship this week, where he and six fellow South Africans have a rare opportunity to tee up at an Asian Tour event.
His career began on South African soil, but the 20-year-old is very quickly earning worldwide recognition, which started with his sole-fourth result at the Australian PGA Championship last week, where he also played on a special invitation.
He made a good impression during his maiden season on the Sunshine Tour in 2015 and came close to winning the Rookie of the Year title this November, but eventually had to settle for second place. That rookie competition is a far cry from what he’ll face over the coming four rounds at Amata Spring Country Club.
This week in Thailand he’ll compete at an event with a $1-million prize fund, which has brought the likes of Bubba Watson and Sergio Garcia out to play. Joining them in the field are European Tour stalwarts Darren Clarke, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, along with young sensations Matthew Fitzpatrick and Byeong Hun An.
The tournament is yet another big step for Lombard, who seems to adjust easily to higher levels of competition. Last week at RACV Royal Pines Resort in Queensland he was one shot outside of making it into a playoff, but his fourth-place finish removed all doubt as to his ability to contend.
Also receiving a golden ticket to compete are Sunshine Tour veterans and long-time friends Titch Moore and Wallie Coetsee, both of whom spend each season in South Africa.
The trip to Thailand will be a welcome chance to compete on new ground, and if Coetsee’s 2015 performances are anything to go by then he could well be in with a shout come Sunday.
Regular Sunshine Tour winners Jacques Blaauw and Andrew Curlewis will also be playing on a special invitation, along with Scott Jamieson and Pablo Martin Benavides.
Lombard is by far the youngest and newest of the seven contenders, but heads into the week looking ready to compete. His special invitation is a superb opportunity to prove that his work on the breeding grounds of the Sunshine Tour will translate into success on an international stage.