Caption:Fijian veteran Dinesh Chand. PHOTO:SUPPLIED
KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia, March 5 – Fijian veteran Dinesh Chand has more motivation than most to earn his card at OneAsia’s Q-School this week — the chance to play for a million dollar purse in front of his family and friends on his home soil later this year.
Chand, 42, has set his sights on taking part in the inaugural Fiji International in August, and a top finish this week at Sutera Harbour Golf and Country Club in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, would guarantee him a spot in what will be the Pacific Island nation’s biggest-ever tournament.
Overshadowed by compatriot Vijay Singh for much of his career, Chand actually has an excellent professional record of his own and boasts three wins on the Japan Tour where he has found a home for over a decade and a half.
Although he dropped down to their challenge tour last year, Chand is excited by the burgeoning relationship between OneAsia and the Japan Golf Tour Organisation they co-sanction events in Indonesia and Thailand — as well as the opportunity to play in warmer climes than usual.
“I’m here to do a job and it would be great for me to do well here for several reasons,” said Chand before the opening round of Q-School got underway on Wednesday.
First of all, you have really good events across Asia and you also have the co-sanctioned tournaments that give you the chance to rise on OneAsia and in Japan.
“But then there is the Fiji International later this year … that will really be something.”
Chand first discovered golf as a barefoot 10-year-old when he used to skip school to collect range balls for the notoriously hard-working Singh for $2 a day.
“Vijay was hitting balls like crazy … eight hours a day,” Chand told Golf Today in an interview in 1999.
“When I was 12 or 13 he gave me a sand wedge so I could knock the balls back to his bag. Then he told me to sit behind him and watch his backswing, and I had to tell him whether he was swinging straight, right, left, whatever.
“Later on he started teaching me a bit, and I started caddying for him.”
Having turned professional at 19, with the support of a Japanese benefactor Chand tried his hand a Q-School in the Land of the Rising Sun for five years before finally earning his card at the sixth attempt in 1998.
Four months later he won his first tournament — the Descente Classic — earning a whopping 18 million yen (U.S. $150,000 at the time), and he was on his way.
He won again on the Japan Tour in 2001 and 2004, but lost his card in 2010 after a couple of lean seasons before bouncing straight back with two wins in-a-row on the challenge tour.Although he retains status in Japan, Chand now wants to try his hand playing further afield.
“I like playing across Asia and I really like playing in this weather,” he said of the hot and humid conditions in tropical Kota Kinabalu.
“I’m used to this, although obviously it doesn’t get like this in Japan.”
Once rated one of the biggest hitters in the world — he trailed only John Daly and Tiger Woods for driving distance in 1998 — Chand has focused more on position and touch as the strength of his youth fades, but he has lost none of his passion for the game and particularly his desire to play at home.
With Singh having already confirmed his participation in the Fiji International, Chand is desperate to join the three-time Major winner and challenge for a home victory at Natadola Bay Championship Golf Curse from August 14 – 17.
“At this stage I’m not guaranteed a place in Fiji, but playing there is obviously something I want very much,” he said.
“It would be great to make it on my own terms (via Q-School) or else I may have to rely on a sponsor’s invitation. Hopefully this week will turn out good.”
OneAsia is a non-profit organisation developed to maximize tournament opportunities for the best players in the Asia-Pacific region. The founding members of OneAsia are the China Golf Association, the Korea Golf Tour, the Korea Golf Association and the PGA of Australia. Our elite suite of tournaments includes the national Opens of Australia, China, Korea and Thailand, as well as numerous other prestigious events.