Professionals from 18 nations were flexing their muscles ahead of the US$300,000 UMA-CNS Open Asian Tour Golf Championship which tees off at the Karachi Golf Club.
Five former Asian Tour winners from countries like India, Singapore and Thailand are in fray in the UMA-CNS Open which marks the return of the Asian Tour to Pakistan for the first time in 11 years. Other participants come from USA, Austria, Spain, Serbia, Australia, England, Argentina, South Africa and Venezuela.
A total of 61 foreigners have joined 71 local challengers in the four-day championship.
The organizers of the championship held a press conference here at the KGC to announce details of the event. The press conference was followed by the prize distribution ceremony of the Pro-Am event of the UMA-CNS Open Asian Tour Championship. A total of 120 players including 30 foreign pros competed in the event. They were divided into 30 teams. Team KGC and Team UMA were victorious in the net and gross categories.
“It is a great occasion to see that the Asian Tour has returned to Pakistan.” Commented Sohail Shams, CEO of United Marine Agencies (UMA).
Meanwhile the leading professionals were all getting ready to negotiate the narrow fairways and tricky greens of the picturesque KGC.
Among the title aspirants is 51-year-old Mardan Mamat of Singapore who will be bringing his renewed sense of confidence to the championship.
Mardan is happy with the current state of his game after he made a successful foray into the European Senior Tour this year.
Coupled with a pair of good results in the last two events in Chinese Taipei, the 50-year-old Mardan feels that he is ready for an excellent finish, if not a win at the Karachi Golf Club.
“Firstly, it’s nice to be back here after such a long time! I played this course in 2006 and it is pretty much the same, although the trees have grown taller. The hospitality has been great and the people have tried their best to make our stay here comfortable,” said Mamat.
“My goal is to get back into the winner’s circle. I need to grind and get a win.”
Mardan, Singapore’s most decorated professional golf player, is also proud to see his young compatriots Gregory Foo and Abdul Hadi joining the play-for-pay ranks. The duo will be playing in the UMA CNS Open Golf Championship on an invite.
Foo has never played in Pakistan and he will be competing with a fresh mindset along with a new status.
Conversely, Hamza Amin of Pakistan has competed frequently at the Karachi Golf Club and he will be using his intimate knowledge of the golf course to his advantage.
Thailand has a strong contingent of golfers at the tournament, spearheaded by the likes of Suradit Yongcharoenchai and Tirawat Kaewsiribandit.
Suradit will enter the tournament as the highest-ranked player both on the Asian Tour Habitat for Humanity Standings and the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR). With his card for the 2019 season, virtually secured, the 19-year-old will be gunning for victory.
Shabbir Iqbal, the reigning Pakistan No. 1, would be the country’s top hope for the title. Other local contenders include Matloob Ahmed, waheed Baloch, Muhammad Munir and Hamza Amin.
“It’s been too long since the Asian Tour last had a tournament in Pakistan. The whole country is excited. For once, cricket won’t be the focus,” said Hamza Amin.
“It feels good to be flying the flag for Pakistan. This is not my home club as I stay in Islamabad but I’ve played enough golf here to have a good shot of playing well this week.”