Chiangmai: As the Asian Tour celebrates its 10th anniversary, a new wave of exciting and talented youngsters, are taking their place on the centrestage.
Anirban Lahiri set the trend with a win at the SAIL-SBI Open and that was immediately followed by Gaganjeet Bhullar coming in second at the Avantha Masters and then Thailand`s Kiradech Aphinbarnrat grabbed the Maybank Malaysian open last week.
There is a whole bunch of Indians on the field. Apart from Lahiri and Bhullar, there are other winners like S S P Chowrasia, Himmat Rai, Digvijay Singh, Jyoti Randhawa, Shiv Kapur, C Muniyappa besides young Rashid Khan and Sujjan Singh.
Lahiri, one of the numerous Indians in the field in Chaingmai this week, said, "It is a great field and it is nice to have some of these top guys playing with us. We had a few strong weeks. We are all up for it and looking forward to rubbing shoulders and beating these guys."
On the course, he added, "It is a fantastic golf course. I didn`t know what to expect but this is probably one of the best courses that we play all year. It is hot, but it is nice hot here! I`m really enjoying myself here. It is always nice to come back to Thailand."
He went on, "The golf course is in great shape and I`ve been talking to some of the Thai boys and they said that they haven`t even played here before. It is surprising because it is such a good track. I think we should make this an annual stop."
Even though he won the SAIL-SBI Open, he said, "My game has been a little bit on and off. Last week I hit it great but I couldn`t score very well. I was disappointed not to play on Sunday, but that`s golf. Coming into this week, I played a few holes and I`m hitting it good."
Asian Tour supremo Kyi Hla Han believes this will lead to a trend that could even this and the next lot dominating the region`s premier Tour and making a mark worldwide.
"We`re witnessing some really great golf by the Asian Tour`s young generation of golfers," enthused Han, who is the Tour`s Executive Chairman and a former Asian number one himself.
"The quality of play which is being produced by the likes of Anirban Lahiri, Gaganjeet Bhullar and Kiradech Aphibarnrat has been wonderful to watch, truly world class indeed," Han said.
"With age on their side, they could start to dominate the scene very soon, just as how the likes of Thongchai Jaidee, Jyoti Randhawa, Jeev Milkha Singh, Prayad Marksaeng and Thaworn Wiratchant consistently contended at the highest level on the Asian Tour in the past decade.
Han, gushing over the new generation, added, "It is wonderful to watch so many of these young players, who were born and bred on the Asian Tour, coming of age.
"They will only get better and I foresee many of them going on to leave an impression on the world stage very soon. This could be the start of another exciting era for the Asian Tour," added Han.
Major champions Ernie Els of South Africa, New Zealander Michael Campbell and Y E Yang of Korea are headlining the full-field Asian Tour event, the first ever in the northern city of Chiangmai.
Thongchai, who holds a record three Order of Merit crowns, believes the new generation of players coming through will provide the boost for the game to maintain its rapid growth on the Asian Tour, which is celebrating its milestone 10th season in 2013.
"I think Kiradech will be the future," predicted Thongchai. "He needs to plan his career and know what he wants to do. Looks like it will be easy for him to win the Order of Merit this year. I think he will have a good chance to win if he keeps playing like this. This tournament will also be a very good chance for him."