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Prom aiming to follow in father's footsteps

Rising star Prom Meesawat hopes to emulate his father's footsteps by winning the US$500,000 Thailand Open which begins at the spectacular Blue Canyon Country Club on Thursday.

Prom 's father Suthep was the first Thai to lift the home Open in 1991 and the historic achievement will be the driving factor when the younger Meesawat begins his campaign.

The 39th Thailand Open, title sponsored by Thai Airways International, was moved from Pattaya to Phuket by organisers to boost the resort island's recovery from the tsunami tragedy last December. This week's event is the fifth leg of the 2005 Asian Tour.

"I was seven years old when my father won the title and I was there to watch the last two rounds. I didn't realise then how important it was for a Thai to win the title. But as I grew up and became more involved with golf, I started to realise it is the biggest event for Thai golfers," said Prom today.

"Hopefully I too can win the Thai Open one day, just like my dad. Who knows, it could be this week and anything can happen. I'm happy with my present form."

The 21-year-old will contend against the likes of compatriots Prayad Marksaeng, Chawalit Plaphol and Thammanoon Srirot as well as last week's winner Scott Strange of Australia and India 's young gun Ashok Kumar in their chase for the US$78,750 first prize.

Other established names in this week's field are Jeev Milkha Singh of India , Filipino star Frankie Minoza and Scotsman Simon Yates, who finished third on the Asian Tour Order of Merit last season.

Prom grew up in Hua Hin, a coastal resort on the south of Bangkok , and idolised his father and the likes Boonchu Ruangkit, Thaworn Wiratchant and Prayad Marksaeng, all established stars on the Asian Tour by watching them play near his home.

After a strong amateur career where he won the Junior World Championship in San Diego in 1997 and 2002, Prom turned professional at the end of 2003 upon the advice of current world number one Vijay Singh.

Prom, who finished 55th on the Order of Merit in his rookie year last season, showed his mettle at the Carlsberg Malaysian Open a fortnight ago, finishing tied sixth and enjoyed the high of outscoring European Ryder Cup stars Miguel Angel Jimenez and Thomas Bjorn in the third and fourth rounds respectively.

"It was a great experience in Malaysia . I'm not scared of anybody now and I feel more confident with my game. The course here this week is tough and putting will be the key.

"It was good for the Thai Open to move to Phuket to help promote the island. What happened on December 26 last year (the tsunami tragedy) was very sad as it affected a lot of lives in Thailand ," said Prom, who enjoyed a top-10 finish in the 2003 Thai Open when he was still an amateur.

While the burly Prom will be pushing for glory, title holder Boonchu had to withdraw from the championship because of a sore right knee. The 48-year-old picked up the injury two weeks ago in Malaysia and was in discomfort when he finished tied eighth in the Myanmar Open at the weekend.

"It's disappointing," said Boonchu, the oldest winner on the Asian Tour following his success last year. "This is our national Open and I would have liked to defend my title. The doctor has advised me to take a two week break from golf," he added.

Another exciting prospect who will tee up with confidence this week is the 22-year-old Kumar, a former caddie who has come good on the pro trail. The slightly built Indian was joint third in Myanmar which earned him a start in Phuket.

"I picked up a lot of confidence and it's good to get a start here as I wouldn't have got into this event from my country exemption. I hope to take advantage of this and I'm ready to play well again.

"I received a phone call from my mentor Amit Luthra who advised me to keep playing and trying hard. That sounds like good advice which I'll follow," said Kumar.

Perth-based Strange will be looking to extend his good run of form after toppling Asian number Thongchai Jaidee in Yangon . "It's another week and a different course," said Strange. "Winning last week was nice as it opens a few doors. The perks of being a winner is also good as I've got better tee times now," said Strange, who will be paried with Prayad and India 's Amandeep Johl in the first round at 7.50am .


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