PROFESSIONAL golfers hailing from 22 different countries will assemble at Siem Reap’s Phokeethra Country Club November 19-22 to compete for the 2009 Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open championship, officials announced at a press conference held in front of Angkor Wat temple Monday.
Htwe Hla Han, senior director of the Asian Tour, stated that so far over 200 golfers had registered, but around 130 would be selected to take part in the third edition of the Kingdom’s only professional golfing tournament. The sports executive noted the benefits for Cambodia of hosting such an event.
“It is good for tourism sector because the information of the competition will be posted on Web sites, and people around the world will see it,” she said, adding that the tournament winner will receive a cash prize of US$47,500.
Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said that three or four professional golfers would be representing Cambodia at the Open, although he admitted they would struggle to compete with the strong international field.
The minister also assured that the recent epidemic of swine flu had been brought under control, and the ceasing of Bangkok Airways operation of domestic routes would also not affect tourists travelling to Cambodia, as the government’s own carrier, Cambodia Angkor Air, was available for journeys.
Samuel Fischer, Johnnie Walker Southeast Asia general manager, was delighted with the development of the event over the past three years. “I truly believe we have built terrific relationships that have made this tournament special,” he said Monday.
The Phokeethra Country Club in Siem Reap has hosted the Open since its inaugural year in 2007, which American Bryan Saltus won ahead of a 144-strong field. Thai star Thongchai Jaidee – currently leading the Asian Tour – took first place last year.
Hor Sarun, undersecretary of state for the Tourism Ministry, said that in the build-up to the Open, an ASEAN plus 3, India and Australia friendship golf tournament will be held at the country club from November 14-16, featuring ambassadors and employees from embassies in Phnom Penh and Bangkok. “I am optimistic that this sport event will help promote Siem Reap and Cambodia extensively, and there will be more tourists to come and visit,” said Hor Sarun.