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Thai courses damaged in Asian tsunamis

Although it's nothing more than a blip on the radar screen compared to the overall carnage, word is beginning to trickle out from various news services regarding the devastation this past weekend's tsunamis wreaked on Thailand's golf courses.

According to the U.K. Web site, Phuket Country Club, built around lakes from an old tin mine, and Blue Canyon, host of the 1994 and 1998 Johnnie Walker Classic, each suffered damage. Both courses were popular with tourists from around the world. One of those tourists is Barry Rose, a Boca Raton, Fla., resident who has a home in Sri Lanka and vacationed several times in the Thai resort areas.

"Phuket is really a beautiful place -- at least it was," Rose told before leaving to attend to his affairs in Sri Lanka. "The infrastructure there is pretty good compared to other parts of Southeast Asia because of all the tourists that come from Europe and Japan. And the Thai people are terrific -- very accommodating and relaxed. I can't even imagine what's going on over there."

In northern Phuket in Phang Na province, more than 1,000 people were killed and the Thai Muang Beach resort, which has a Pete Dye-designed golf course, was almost completely destroyed from one of the first waves to hit the island. Thai Muang was Thailand's only seaside course and its 18th hole ran along the beach.

Among the disaster's victims was Dr. Prasom Sathapitanon, one of Thailand's most knowledgeable golf rules experts. Prasom was on holiday on Phi Phi island in Krabi with his wife and daughter.

Le Meridien Hotels & Resorts has reported that its new hotel in Khao Lak, near Phuket, suffered damage and is to remain closed until further notice. The company said the resort's ground floor villas and private beach villas all suffered "severe damage."

A spokesperson for the resort said that the hotel's main structure has not been severely damaged but the full assessment is expected to take weeks.

Khao Lak is one of the worst affected areas in Thailand and communication with Khao Lak, according to Le Meridien, "remains very difficult." The company said that its on-site staff is working with the local authorities and tour operators to arrange for guests to be transferred to alternative hotels and returned home as quickly as possible.

Le Meridien said guests at its Nirwana Golf & Spa Resort Bali in Indonesia and Le Meridien Fisherman's Cove in the Seychelles are safe and no damage to the hotels has been reported.

A former Seaside, Calf., golf professional golfer and his wife were seriously injured when the tsunami struck Phi Phi island. William Robins, 26, suffered a broken collarbone and had most of his right ear torn off, and his wife Amanda, sustained a broken pelvis, when the monster wave struck the island, famous as the setting of Leonardo DiCaprio's movie, "The Beach."

"We saw a whole bunch of people screaming and jumping off boats," Robins told Reuters. "We thought it was a terrorist bomb, so we jumped over a hotel fence and hid in a storage room."

Robbins, according to The Californian newspaper in Salinas, Calif., was a caddie at Cypress Point Club in Pebble Beach on and off for about three years and planned to play the mini-tour circuit next year.

Also, the Asian Tour has announced that its 2005 Qualifying School will go on as planned in Johor, Malaysia, next month. The tsunamis didn't affect the four venues to be used, all of which are in the southernmost state of Malaysia, said Asian Tour Director of Tournament Operations David Parkin in a statement.

The first stage of Asian Tour Q-School is set for Jan. 5-8 and the final stage is set for Jan. 12-15 at Palm Resort Golf and Country Club, Pulai Springs Golf Club and two courses at Tanjong Puteri Golf and Country Club.

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