Former World No 1 and six time major winner Sir Nick Faldo is spreading his legendary footprint in Cambodia.
One of his masterly designs, Angkor Golf Resort in Siem Reap, played host to the Handa Faldo Cambodian Classic last week, earning rave reviews from some of the top pros on the Asian Tour.
Faldo was named PGA Player of the Year in 1990 and European Tour Player of the Year in 1989, 1990 and 1992.
He topped the European Order of Merit in 1983 and has a career record of 29 European Tour titles.
It is in the prestigious Ryder Cup that Sir Nick also has an enviable record.
He was the youngest to appear in the Ryder Cup at the age of 21, and is also the most prolific player in the biennial tournament, having won the most points by any player on either team and represented Europe a record 11 times.
His match record stands at 23 won, 19 lost and 4 halved, and is one of only six players to have scored a Ryder Cup hole-in-one.
He was awarded the MBE in 1998, then knighted in the 2009 Queen’s Birthday Honours, only the second pro golfer to receive this honour after Sir Henry Cotton.
Golf World famously summed up the true mark of Faldo genius when they profiled the careers of Faldo and his arch-rival for many years Greg Norman.
The magazine said: “Norman has played and won more events: 87-43; however, Faldo has won more US and European tour titles: 36-34. Norman has won more money; Faldo has won more Majors: 6-2. Norman has won more friends, Faldo more admirers.”
That now includes a legion in Cambodia.
The legend himself was out yesterday with his illustrious golf bag, recreating his old magic in a Pro-Am event on the links of the Jack Nicklaus-designed Grand Phnom Penh Golf Club.
He graciously shared his thoughts with Post sports writer H S Manjunath on Cambodian golf and his choices and challenges as a course designer, broadcaster and promoter in this email interview.
How special is the Handa Faldo Cambodian Classic, first as a patron and then as a designer of the Angkor Golf Resort where it is played?
This is a special event for me and a special chance to support Dr Handa, as he has been tremendously supportive of our efforts to grow opportunities through golf through the Faldo Series. We hope these events and these champions create inspiration for future growth of the sport in the region.
And hosting here in Cambodia on the Faldo-designed course builds on a genuine connection for me, as I have had the pleasure of spending time in Cambodia and with the people of Cambodia. Of course, Dr Handa’s efforts for the Red Cross through this event and the invitation to give back to these people adds inspiration for me. I’m quite proud to be a part of all of this.
You have designed dozens of golf courses in many countries. How has your experience in Cambodian been and what is your vision of the future of golf for the country?
The people of Cambodia have truly touched me. I am particularly moved by the children.
As through the Faldo Series, I believe there is opportunity through golf. There is opportunity to introduce this region to the world and opportunity to grow golf here in Asia where recent success has been remarkable. There is real opportunity to truly inspire through true stories of success here.
Golf is on the rise in the Asian continent, Dubai is an exciting destination. China and India are growing fast. Do you see Asia emerging as a threat to the European or American prominence, or for that matter dominance?
Asian golfers are competing and winning on the biggest world stages and yes I, like many, expect the numbers of great Asian golfers to grow.
The Faldo Series has been a veritable nursery for young golfers. Do you have any plans to extend this helpline to Cambodian aspirants?
We grow and plan to grow the Faldo Series every year and are really seeing the success now of Faldo Series players on the world stage. Cambodia is certainly a viable site for future Faldo Series events. I would like to see that very much.
Do you miss competitive golf after all those years and all those achievements?
I enjoy my life now. I feel blessed that I had the success that I had, but we all have a window of time when we are at our best in this game. I am a television analyst now and a businessman.
I enjoy giving back to the game through the Faldo Series and applying what I know through Faldo Design. I’m lucky because I’ve found the way for me and still stay close to this game which has been my life.
How often does the fiercely competitive golfer in you get in to your work on a drawing board?
In designing a course, I apply all the experience of playing this game and the strategy I enjoyed as a player. I like to visualize and see it through with every course design.
I spend as much time as possible drawing and waving my arms around with the developer and our architects to combine what fits best regionally and naturally with what we like to see and what will be fun to play in each course.
Design applies a good deal of the knowledge I have acquired through playing this game at the best courses in the world.
If you have to relive some greatest moments of your golfing life, which would they be?
Fortunately there are quite a few. My goal was to win Majors and I’m happy with the three and three. Each one means something very special and holds a special place.
Finally, what is next for Sir Nick Faldo?
There is a lot going on. I am working on a new version of my Swing For Life book which will be out later this year. I look forward to more years of broadcasting.
We recently launched Faldo ProCare, which are products focused on skin protection for outdoor life and sports. There are drawings in the design room and Faldo Academies and the Series to build as we continue to make every effort to grow and give back to the sport.
My favourite foursomes include my children now, who have all shown some interest to play with or caddy with me lately. I enjoy travels with my family, a day with a fishing pole in hand and having a laugh messing with my drums.