Siem Reap’s Phokeethra Country Club is set to host the fourth edition of the annual Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open golf tournament from December 9-12, with high expectations for a repeat of last year’s strong participation.
Htwe Hla Han, senior director of the Asian Tour, revealed that up to 130 professional golfers from around 25 countries will contest for a total prize purse of US$300,000.
“The Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open will be played once again at the highly rated Phokeethra Country Club, and I am confident that [this] world-class venue will provide a stern test of golf for the Asian Tour stars,” said Han during a press conference at the Angkor Wat complex yesterday.
Cambodian officials expressed their belief that the three-day tournament will enhance the local tourism sector, along with other events such as the 15th International Half Marathon to be held on a course around the Angkor temples on December 5, and a Triathlon slated for February next year.
“I am optimistic that [the Cambodian Open] will not only promote Siem Reap and Cambodia extensively, but will also increase the number of tourists visiting Siem Reap, as well as other attractive tourist destinations throughout the country,” said Hor Sarun, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Tourism.
Professional American golfer Bryan Saltus clinched the title at Phookethra Country Club in the inaugural year in 2007. Thai golf star Thongchai Jaidee was crowned champion in 2008, and Australia’s Marcus Both celebrated victory ahead of 124 professionals from 24 countries last year.
Tourism Minister Thong Khon said his hope was for local amateur golfers to use the annual tournaments as a springboard to gain professional status on the Asian Tour.
“Cambodia has a lot of amateurs, but we have to respect the standard of professionals,” he said. “I hope [in the future] maybe some of them can be professional.”
Top Cambodian amateur Ly Hong said that, although he did not expect to match the level of the professionals, he was looking to benefit from improvements made over the past year.
“I hope I do not have pressure as before because I know the rules how to play well,” he said during a phone interview with the Post yesterday.
Ly Hong also raised concerns that Cambodian golf courses are still too expensive for amateurs to practice on.
Thong Khon recognised the difficulty that local golfers had affording the fees to play on local courses. “It would be cheaper if there are more than seven golf courses in Cambodia,” he said.