Hua Hin: India`s Rashid Khan and former Malaysian Open champion Yeh Wei-tze of Chinese Taipei will be among the leading aspirants at Asian Tour Qualifying School First Stage Section B when the race to qualify for next week`s all-important Final Stage begins here on Wednesday.
A total of 297 golfers will tee up in the First Stage Section B at the Springfield Royal Country Club and Imperial Lakeview Golf Club with the top 15 per cent finishers after four rounds qualifying from each venue for the next stage slated from January 23 to 26.
195 players are already exempted into the Final Stage, which include 46 players from last week`s First Stage Section A. The top-40 finishers and ties at the Final Stage will earn Tour cards for 2013.
Rashid is hoping to be third time lucky in his quest for an Asian Tour card after retiring at the halfway stage of the 2011 Qualifying School due to illness and then missing the grade last year.
Relying on sponsors` invitations and limited appearances on the Asian Tour, Rashid played seven Asian Tour events last season, making five cuts that included his best result of tied 29th at the Worldwide Holdings Selangor Masters in Malaysia.
The Indian, a member of the silver medal winning team in the 2010 Asian Games, is hoping to translate his impressive form on the local circuit at the Qualifying School as he won once and made 18 cuts in 19 appearances.
Yeh sprung a major surprise when he won the co-sanctioned Malaysia Open in 2000, defeating a top field that included Germany`s Bernhard Langer and Irishman Padraig Harrington.
In recent years, he has played in Japan but is hoping to make a return to the Asian Tour.
Former European Tour player Pelle Edberg of Sweden, England`s Guy Woodman, who earned an Asian Tour card at Qualifying School last year, Kang Ji-man of Korea, Singapore`s Timothy Low and Venezuelan Wolmer Murillo are also in the field.
This year`s Asian Tour Qualifying School has attracted a record 748 players, by far surpassing last year`s total of 580, which is testament to the immense growth of the Asian Tour and Asian Development Tour (ADT), which will be afforded with Official World Golf Ranking status this season.