Beijing, May 2: Title holder Gaurav Ghei will spearhead the region’s challenge against the best from Japan and China when the Pine Valley Beijing Open tees off next week.The Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) member etched his name into the history books when he became the inaugural winner in the Chinese capital 12 months ago but he will face a different kind of challenge in his defence at Pine Valley Golf Club.With prize money raised to a record US$1 million, the Pine Valley Beijing Open will for the first time include the sanction of the Japan Golf Tour, along with the Asian Tour and China Golf Association.Ghei is amongst a strong contingent of Asian Tour stars who will head to Beijing for what is the Tour’s 12th stop of a bumper 2008 season, which will see nearly US$40 million on offer.
Former Asian number ones Thongchai Jaidee and Thaworn Wiratchant, third in Beijing last season, and proven tournament winners Angelo Que of the Philippines, Lin Wen-tang of Chinese Taipei, Korea’s Lee Sung, Australian Kane Webber and England’s Chris Rodgers are also in the elite field next week.Adam Blyth, second behind Ghei last year and who recently qualified for his maiden British Open appearance, is also expected to challenge for the title once again.
Leading the Japanese assault to the Middle Kingdom includes Keiichiro Fukabori, Tetsuji Hiratsuka, Katsumasa Miyamoto, Hideki Kase, Hirofumi Miyase and Hiroyuki Fujita. The six players have won a combined 35 tournaments in Japan.Japan Tour regulars, Yeh Wei-tze of Chinese Taipei, and Fijian Dinesh Chand will also cross swords with the Asian Tour stalwarts.
Ghei said that last year’s victory in Beijing was memorable as it was his third victory on the Asian Tour and came just eight months after he ended a lengthy 11-year title drought.“I wanted to win another tournament to prove to myself that my previous win was not a fluke and to do it in Beijing in such a short span of time was very satisfying indeed. I put in a lot of hard work and it felt great to win it again,” said Ghei.