By Richard C Talbot
Is it really 12 months ago when we were all gearing ourselves up for the 2017 LET European Thailand Championship? For many people it was a feeling of stepping into the unknown as it was the first time the LET had played an event at Phoenix, and everyone involved was determined that the tournament was going to be a success.
All of this early unease soon dissipated as from the very outset it was clear how well the course and the golfers were suited to each other. After 4 days of a splendid tournament, a thrilling finish ended with the 14 year old Thai schoolgirl Atthaya Thitikul being crowned the champion. In the process she became the youngest ever winner of a professional golf tournament.
Since that time many of us have been waiting in earnest for confirmation of the dates for 2018, and now we are looking forward to the first shot being struck on the 21st June. Just a brief glance down the LET entry list and one is thrilled that so many of last year’s entrants are returning.
Playing golf in Thailand in any situation is a wonderful experience and the Phoenix course last year proved an ideal opportunity for experiencing Thailand golf. When many golfers first see the card at Phoenix the length of the course has them rubbing their hands in expectation. But beware, last year’s tournament saw only 6 players breaking par after the 72 holes had been completed.
Phoenix is a golf course that has been splendidly designed. The players need to bring their straight game, and putt well on the fast, but true, greens. The hazards don’t look too threatening but last year’s results proved that players flirted with them at their peril.
The course is only 20 minutes outside of Pattaya City, yes the same Pattaya that is so colourfully portrayed in the western press. Fear not, this is a great location, and when the players arrive in Bangkok the hotel is only 90 minutes away. Pattaya today is a city of over 3 million people and it receives over 16 million tourists each year.
There are 30 high quality golf courses all within a 50 minute drive from the city centre and this is a golfer’s heaven. In February the LPGA Honda tournament was held at the Siam Country Club which is 5 miles to the north of Phoenix. Prior to this tournament many of the Thai entries will be playing in the Singha Championship at Green Valley Golf Club, which is 8 miles to the south of Phoenix.
One hopes that the players get the chance to see a little bit of the area during their stay. The Central Plaza in Pattaya is a shopper’s paradise, the beaches on nearby Koh Lahn Island are idyllic and the weekend night market in Jomtiem is an experience. As an expat my only advice is to stay hydrated, always wear a hat and enjoy the experience of a life time.