Omega China Tour Qualifying School Preview
Sunday, 8 February 2009
Redfern, 36, only finished behind American Jim Johnson among the foreign PGA members in last yearâ€™s Omega Order of Merit, finishing 19th in the money list after rounding off his season with four top-20 finishes.
The Englishman, whose wife Yvette caddies for him, is among 16 Hong Kong-based professionals teeing up in the 39-strong field and is confident about making the top 10 and earning a full card for the Omega China Tourâ€™s fifth season.
â€œMy aim is to win. I always play to win, but Iâ€™ll be happy to finish in the top 10. Iâ€™m hitting it straight and Iâ€™m pretty relaxed. However, itâ€™s a much stronger field this year with a lot more players,â€ said Redfern, who finished joint-sixth in last yearâ€™s Qualifying School at Zhuhai Golden Gulf Golf Club.
â€œThe scores will be a lot lower than last year as Palm Island is an easier layout than Golden Gulf. Itâ€™s fairly straightforward, so we can expect some decent scores.â€
Lee, a teaching pro at Hong Kong Golf Club, topped last yearâ€™s Qualifying School after finishing one shot ahead of Johnson and Hong Kongâ€™s James Stewart.
â€œIt will be a lot more difficult this year, but Iâ€™m playing pretty well and I certainly hope to qualify again,â€ said the 28-year-old Lee, whoâ€™s playing at Palm Island Resort for the first time. â€œIf I make it, Iâ€™ll be free to play most of the Tour, unlike last year, so I really want to qualify.â€
Freeman, who has played on the Asian Tour for the past three years, is among the newcomers to Qualifying School.
â€œI was thinking about playing in last yearâ€™s Q-School, but fell ill beforehand. Iâ€™ve heard a lot of good things about the Tour, especially the quality of the courses, which is important to me,â€ said Freeman, a renowned long hitter.
â€œItâ€™s a good field this week. Jovickâ€™s been playing well recently, so he should be in with a chance, while Andrew Good is another strong player.â€
Jason Kwok, who played on the Asian Tour in the late 1990s, is another first-time entrant, having heard about the Omega China Tour from Stewart, his business partner.
â€œIâ€™ve been regularly playing tournaments in Hong Kong, but now Iâ€™m keen to try out for the Omega China Tour after hearing so much about it,â€ said Kwok, the head pro at Discovery Bay Golf Club in Hong Kong.
â€œIâ€™ve had some injury problems with my back in the past, but Iâ€™d like to qualify as Iâ€™d certainly commit to playing half-a-dozen events. Weâ€™ll just have to see what happens.â€
Former European Tour player Max Kellner, 29, is among the other notable entries, which features a wide diversity of nationalities.
The field comprises eight each from Korea and the US, seven Brits, six Canadians, three each from Australia and New Zealand, and players from Germany, South Africa, Singapore and Norway.
The 39 entries marks a significant increase from the 17 players who competed last year, but the fact that there are still only 10 places available has increased the intensity of the competition.
â€œItâ€™s a really good-quality field as well as being diverse,â€ said Shay Smart, Director of Golf at Palm Island Resort. â€œItâ€™s good to see several Palm Island teaching pros competing, like Matt Moore, Jason Robertson, Jeff Olyniec and Fred Morales. Jason will even have one of his teenage students caddying for him.â€
The Tour has become more competitive and gained greater exposure since offering places for foreign PGA members living in Greater China.
Last year also marked the first full season that two players were invited from each of Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong and Macau, with experienced Chinese Taipei pros winning four of the eight events in 2008.
Palm Island Resort has 27 holes and is situated in the Hui Yang District in eastern Guangdong, just 40 minutes from the Hong Kong-Shenzhen border.
* Source - supplied courtesy of Omega China Tour