Hopes High For Home Success At Ballantine's Championship

Hong Kong, Hong Kong (PressExposure) February 17, 2009 -- The €2.1 million showpiece represents the perfect chance for Korean players to showcase their skills on the big stage.

The country's golf has never been stronger - seven of Asia's top 20 players in the Official World Golf Rankings are from Korea and the country provided four different winners on the Asian Tour last year.

And that means hopes will be high for a home success when the Ballantine's Championship - co-sanctioned by the Asian and European Tours and the Korea PGA - is held at Pinx Golf Club on Jeju island from April 23-26.

Korea's growing presence on the international golf scene is a source of pride for the Korea PGA, which runs a burgeoning, ultra-competitive domestic tour where players cut their teeth before graduating to the international game.

"The Korean Tour has grown to about 20 tournaments a year and has been hugely instrumental in helping players to improve their skills and confidence," reveals KPGA general manager Park Ho Yoon.

"The result is that we have many young and talented Korean players who have been playing from an early age and have been trained in well-structured and systematic programmes.

"They also have a tremendous work ethic. They practice hard to reach their goals and are keen to play overseas. They want to reach the international tours."

The KPGA has an impressive 4,753 professional players on its books - a figure comprising 870 full-time pros, 3,401 semi-pros and 482 teaching pros.

And the next generation is already on its way, with 2,786 players - almost a third of them female - registered with the Korean Junior Golfers' Association.

Staging an event like the Ballantine's Championship - which last year became the first European Tour event to be held in Korea - helps swell these numbers as Korea hosts some of the world's top players.

Already confirmed for the 2009 tournament are three-time Major winner Ernie Els, world No.6 Henrik Stenson, world No.12 Lee Westwood and defending champion Graeme McDowell.

Europe's newly appointed Ryder Cup captain, Colin Montgomerie - the most prolific British winner on the European Tour with an astonishing 31 titles - is also in the line-up together with former Masters champion Fred Couples.

The Ballantine's Championship represents a unique chance for Korea's homegrown players to compete against the world's elite, with at least 30 starting slots in the full field of 156 reserved for KPGA players - an increase from last year's figure of 25.

With proven Korean winners on the Asian Tour and a large KPGA contingent teeing off at Pinx, fans will have plenty of chance to cheer their homegrown heroes during the week.

Asian Tour executive chairman Kyi Hla Han is upbeat about the chances of a home victory.

"Last year was tremendous for Korean golf as Mo Joong Kyung, Bae Sang Moon, Hwang Inn Choon and Noh Seung Yul won titles on the Asian Tour, which is a great reflection of the growing standard of golf in Korea," says Han.

"The playing opportunities that the Asian Tour has created have inevitably helped give them an edge and it will be a great story if one of the Koreans goes on to win the Ballantine's Championship this year.

"It will not surprise me if this happens as there is enough strength in depth in Korean golf now.

"Previously, Korean players were reluctant to leave their comfort zone to compete across Asia but we've seen more and more young Korean players venturing to the region, learning to play in different environments and enjoying success on the Asian Tour."

KPGA general manager Park admits it will be tough for a Korean player to triumph in the Ballantine's Championship, but says it is certainly possible.

"Jeju is famous for its windy conditions and some of the Korean golfers will not have played there before," he points out.

"The international players, on the other hand, have experienced many different climates on tour, so I don't think home advantage will be particularly strong.

"However, around 70 per cent of the Korean players in the tournament will be in their 20s - they are the new generation and they have done much to improve the quality of Korean golf.

"With their youthfulness and competitive attitude, they will be a force. I think there could be a winner among them."

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Press Release Submitted On: February 16, 2009 at 8:51 pm
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