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Johnnie Walker Classic - 2004
Johnnie Walker Classic - 2003
Johnnie Walker Classic 2002

Top Trio confirmed for Johnnie Walker Classic

A top trio of international golfers, world number six Sergio Garcia, Korean number one Choi Kyoung-ju and China’s leading player Zhang Lian-wei, have confirmed their participation at this year’s £1.25 million Johnnie Walker Classic at the prestigious Pine Valley Golf Resort and Country Club in Beijing from April 21 to 24.

The tournament presented by Johnnie Walker, the world’s leading Scotch whisky, is Asia’s richest event and has already attracted three former Johnnie Walker Classic champions; world number three, South Africa’s Ernie Els who won in 1997 and 2003, six-time major winner Nick Faldo, who took top honours in 1990 and 1993 and this year’s defending champion, Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain, ranked 14 in the world.

"We are excited to welcome three more of the best and most inspiring names in golf to our tournament to join what is shaping up to be one of our strongest fields in the 14-year history of our event,” commented Ben Anderson, Global Brand Director for Johnnie Walker. “We salute these three players for their determination to "Keep Walking", and succeed at the top of their game and we look forward to enjoying what will be undoubtedly some of the best golf to be played in Asia this year.

“Past winners of our event include former world number ones Tiger Woods, Els, Faldo and Greg Norman, so I am confident that we will once again see a world-class winner raise the Johnnie Walker Classic trophy in Beijing.”

Spanish superstar Garcia, born in Castellon just 25 years ago, will spearhead the battle for the £208,333 cheque that will go to the winner of Asia Pacific’s premier golf event. Nicknamed ‘El Nino’, Garcia started playing golf when only three years old, copying his father Victor, the local club-pro, who still coaches him to this day.

He turned professional in 1999 after playing in 28 professional tournaments while still an amateur. A precocious talent, he won the British Amateur Championship in 1998, a victory that qualified him for the US Masters where he became the first British Amateur Champion to finish as top Amateur in the illustrious field.

Since those heady amateur days, Sergio has won five tournaments on the US PGA Tour, five in Europe and four more around the world including two wins in the Nedbank Million Dollar Challenge in South Africa. He is one of the best known and popular players around the world, and although always smiling, he is extremely competitive having played on three Ryder Cup teams and the two Dunhill Cup teams.

Joining Garcia will be Korea’s Choi Kyoung-ju, known around the world as KJ Choi. Ranked 26th in the world, the 36-year-old started playing golf when his high school teacher suggested he try the sport. Having spent hours studying videos of Jack Nicklaus and almost living on the practice range, KJ turned pro in 1994 and became the first Korean golfer to qualify for the US PGA Tour. He has since won twice in the US, once in Europe and once on the Asian Tour. He was also voted Johnnie Walker Asian Golfer of the Year in 2002.

However KJ’s hallmark is his consistency, achieving seven top-10 finishes last year, including a memorable third place in the US Masters, which helped him win over US$2 million, to finish the year in 26th spot on the US Tour Money list.

Born in Shenzhen, 39-year-old Zhang Lian-wei trained as a javelin thrower before turning to golf and becoming China’s most successful golfer. Discovering that he had natural flair for the game he won the China Amateur Championship three times before turning professional in 1994 and only two years later was awarded the accolade of Johnnie Walker Asian Golfer of the Year for his efforts.

Pioneering Zhang started the 2003 season in stunning fashion when he beat Els to win the Caltex Masters in Singapore. That victory made him the first Chinese player to win on the European Tour. He followed this victory with a remarkable home soil win at the Volvo China Open, becoming only the second Chinese player to capture the National title, and ensuring his second place finish on the Asian Tour Money List.

Last year, Zhang notched up two more ‘firsts’ for China golf when he became the first Chinese player to be invited to the prestigious US Masters and to make the cut in a US PGA Tour event, at the FedEx St. Jude Classic.

The Johnnie Walker Classic is jointly owned and presented by Johnnie Walker and IMG and is jointly sanctioned by the European, Asian and Australasian Tours and by the China Golf Association. The tournament is the richest event in Asia on the prestigious European Tour schedule for 2005. Johnnie Walker is the world’s leading deluxe Scotch whisky with annual sales of approximately 11.7 million nine-litre cases. IMG is the world’s premier sports and lifestyle management and marketing firm with an international staff of more than 2,200 people in 70 offices in 30 countries.

Johnnie Walker has a long association with golf. Golf and Scotch whisky are arguably two of Scotland’s greatest gifts to the world, which may explain why the world’s leading Scotch whisky brand sponsors Asia Pacific’s premier golf event, the Johnnie Walker Classic.

 

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