Editor’s note: The following Q&A was provided to ARMCHAIR GOLF by Mandarin Media the week before the U.S. Open. Thongchai Jaidee finished in a tie for 47th.
Q: You are currently ranked No. 46 in the world, good enough to earn a U.S. Open spot at Pebble Beach. Is that a thrill or just another competitive opportunity?
THONGCHAI JAIDEE: As a professional golfer, I try to perform well in every tournament. But since the U.S. Open is one of the majors, every player tries harder to perform well—because the field is full of talented people.
Q: You have won 12 times on the Asian Tour; you competed in your second Masters this year, you were a quarterfinalist at the World Match Play in 2010, and you are slated for this week’s U.S. Open. What are the similarities between players in the U.S. and Europe, compared with Asian tour pros—and what separates them?
THONGCHAI JAIDEE: Looking at world golf generally, there aren’t many differences between each tour. This shouldn’t surprise anyone because players from the Asia-Pacific region, such as Y.E. Yang and Michael Campbell, have already won majors. Other leading players are performing well on the European Tour. The standard of play today is very high everywhere.
Q: You didn’t play golf until you were 16 years of age, and soon thereafter you entered the Royal Thai Army. Where did you learn the game?
THONGCHAI JAIDEE: The very first course, where I started my golfing life, was Jompol Por Golf Course located in the army camp in my home town. This is not unusual. Many army bases in Thailand include golf courses that are accessible to public play. My old house was right beside the course and my first contact with golf was serving as a caddie there at Jompol Por.
Q: Tell us about your golf foundation. What does it set out to accomplish?
THONGCHAI JAIDEE: The Thongchai Jaidee Foundation officially launched in 2009. My initial thought was that I wanted to support children, hoping to create new generations of Thai golfers. Who knows? We might find another Tiger Woods among those boys or girls. My intention is to give them knowledge of the game, a tool to earn their living perhaps. I’m hoping at the very least to assist in turning them away from drugs.
Thailand as a Golf Destination
Q: Thailand is by far the most popular golf destination for Asians, but North Americans and Europeans may not know much about it. In your view, what recommends golf in Thailand?
THONGCHAI JAIDEE: I recommend golf in Thailand for its year-round golfing, and for the numerous world-class golf courses. There are hundreds. Nevertheless, I believe the hospitality of Thai people is the one thing that will impress visitors most when they visit my country. Thailand offers so many relaxing activities—Thai massage, the world’s finest beaches and so many other tourist attractions—but it is Thai hospitality that makes the strongest impression.
Q: When you play golf in Thailand today, where do you prefer to play? What are your favorite Thai courses and why?
THONGCHAI JAIDEE: When I am home, I still practice at Jompol Por GC, and Narai Hill Golf and Country Club in Lopburi. These two courses are close to my home and make for easy access. But when I have more time, I will practice at Black Mountain Golf Club in Hua Hin, which I can highly recommend for beginners, serious golfers, even professionals. It is one of my favorite courses because it boasts a very challenging layout and championship-standard course conditions. Also, the way the wind blows up there, it prepares me well for the conditions I can expect when playing in Europe.
Q: Lopburi, your hometown, is a rather new area for golf in Thailand. What makes it special and do you recommend golfers visit this area of Thailand?
THONGCHAI JAIDEE: Well, it’s a bit early to consider Lopburi in the same breath as golf destinations like Hua Hin, Phuket, Rayong or Samui. These regions are home to some of the top resort courses in the world. But the courses here in Lopburi do offer a fine challenge to golfers who seek new venues. They are standard courses and well equipped with facilities.
Q: You surely play many pro-am tournaments alongside amateur players. Have many of them played golf in Thailand? What’s their impression of golf in your native country?
THONGCHAI JAIDEE: If I am playing a pro-am in Asia, most of them already know very well that Thailand is a wonderful golf destination. I would include some of those who play with me in European pro-ams, as well. Thailand has been promoted as the ultimate golf destination for golfers seeking championship-standard courses, offered at very reasonable prices. That describes Thai golf very well, in my opinion.
(Brought to you by YourGolfTravel.com.)
(Image courtesy of Mandarin Media)