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HindustanTimes Sat,23 Aug 2014

Other Sport

The 'Godfather’ who used to kick
Kaushik Chatterji, Hindustan Times
Greater Noida, March 16, 2013
First Published: 23:16 IST(16/3/2013)
Last Updated: 23:17 IST(16/3/2013)

If it weren't for one fateful knockout kick, golf in Asia probably would have been drastically different. As a 14-year-old residing near the Air Force course in Bangkok, Boonchu Ruangkit couldn't resist the temptation of occasionally whacking a few balls.

Golf, though, was just for kicks. The lucrative prospect was Muay Thai. That is, up until his fourth bout.

"I won three, lost one and that was it," recalls Ruangkit, before faking a limp and adding: "It hurt! I couldn't walk!"

But he could. And he did, 18 holes at a time. A strong work ethic helped overcome the lack of a structure or guidance in Thailand; soon, golf became the profession. About 40 years later, Ruangkit is known as 'The Godfather' in Thai golfing circles.

While perhaps also due to his composed countenance that can come across as unnerving, the real reason is simpler — he inspired many to follow suit, and continues to do so through his academy Pattana (Thai for development).

Says his caddie Noom, "He's been around before anyone else, and was the first Thai to play across Asia and Japan."

Now a regular on the European Senior Tour (he won it in his "rookie" year in 2010), the 56-year-old has posted three top-10 finishes in as many years at the Delhi Golf Club.

The longer course at the Jaypee Greens, Ruangkit admits, does not suit his game — ironic, given that most Thais are known for their explosive hitting.

But despite the obvious handicap, he is right up there after 54 holes. Guess brute force can never trump experience.


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