Starting January 26, Yangon’s Pun Hlaing Golf Club will play host to 150 golfers from 30 different nations, including Myanmar – 10 local pros and four amateurs will compete in the competition, selected based on their 2016 finishes.
Last year’s champion Shaun Norris, of South Africa, finished 24-under to claim $135,000 for first place. That tournament, however, was played at the Royal Mingalardon. Despite a change of venue, the 34-year-old remains confident in his chances at a repeat this year.
“I don’t think there’s any player in the world who doesn’t look forward to defending their title, even if it is at a new course,” he said. “I’m expecting the best.”
He added that he plans to apply his experience playing in Asia and Japan last year to help him win more tournaments in the region in 2017.
U Kyi Hla Han, Asian Tour commissioner and former star Myanmar golfer, said the decision to return to Myanmar for another year was easy.
“Our players enjoyed competing for the Leopalace21 Myanmar Open title earlier this season,” he said. “And the gathering of golf stars from the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour will ensure golf fans in Myanmar – and TV viewers from around the world – will continue to enjoy watching world-class golf when the tournament moves to Pun Hlaing Golf Club.”
He added that the Asian Tour hopes the Myanmar Open can encourage golf development in Myanmar.
“It is also our aspiration that the successful staging of the Leopalace21 Myanmar Open will continue to inspire the local Myanmar golfers to excel in the game,” he said.
One such local Myanmar golfer who hopes to challenge for the title is Zaw Zaw Latt, who finished as the top-ranked golfer in the country last year. Despite his top billing, he failed to make the cut in last year’s Myanmar Open after a second round 4-under failed to erase his first round 2-over finish.
“Last year, I couldn’t play my best,” he told The Myanmar Times. “But this year I hope I can. My target is to finish in the top 25.”
He added that the new venue, designed by golfing legend Gary Player, is a “good course” that will provide a challenging atmosphere.
“The Myanmar Open is a good tournament, and we – as well as Myanmar amateurs – will get good experience there,” he said.