New Delhi: Made a force to reckon with internationally by seasoned pros such as Jeev Milkha Singh and Arjun Atwal, India has one of the strongest pool of young golfing talent, feels five-time winner on the Asian tour Boonchu Ruangkit of Thailand.
The 55-year-old, who carded a sensational six-under 66 to move to tied seventh in the Indian Open golf tournament at the Delhi Golf Club, has played alongside some promising Indian talent such as Gaganjeet Bhullar and Anirban Lahiri.
"Indian golfers such as Jeev (Milkha Singh) and Shiv (Kapur) have already made a mark for themselves in the world stage. But the new talent pool that India has is one of the strongest. Chiragh Kumar, who is the current leader at the Indian Open, SSP Chowrasia, Anirban Lahiri, all are great talent," said Boonchu.
"I played with Lahiri during the 2009 Indian Open," he added.
In 2009, Boonchu almost made history by being the oldest winner on the Asian Tour at 53 years and 82 days. He was stopped in his tracks after losing in a play-off against Gaganjeet Bhullar of India and eventual winner Darren Beck of Australia at the Brunei Open.
Considered one of Asia's greatest players and golfing ambassadors, Boonchu won a hat-trick of European Senior Tour titles in Brunei, Thailand and South Africa last year and finished at the top of the European Senior Tour Order of Merit after winning his fourth Senior Tour title in Spain.
"Weather is a factor in Europe. It changes very frequently as if all the seasons have merged into a single day so one needs to adjust. So it was competitive, difficult and a great experience," said Boonchu, who was honoured with the Asian Tour's Special Achievement Award for his remarkable accomplishments in 2010.
A sports freak, who played kick-boxing and football before taking up golf at the age of 14, Boonchu says he would play for four or five years maximum and after that would want to contribute to the development of golf in Thailand and has already set up his own academy called 'Singha Pattana'.
"Singha Pattana has been running for the last four years and three of my golfers are playing here at the Indian Open. It is important to have an organised set up. Even in India there are around 30 domestic tournaments which is very good for the young golfers," he said.
"In my academy, the golfers stay for free and they have all the facilities for training and other amenities. I want to return to golf what it has given me. I hope I can set up a base for the younger generation to come," he added.
In 2006, Boonchu earned medallist honours at the US Champions (Seniors) Tour Qualifying School and played in two seasons in America before hurting his wrist.
In 2005, he had posted back-to-back sixth place finishes in the Philippine Open and Maekung Open in Korea and made a winning debut at the Dynasty Cup in China in 2005.
Asked how he picked up golf, Boonchu said, "I grew up playing golf at the Royal Army Course, which was just opposite to my home. Initially I played kick-boxing, football but got bored easily. So I took up golf then."
Boonchu won the 1995 Langkawi Open in Malaysia; 1996 Myanmar Open; 1996 Lexus International in Thailand; 1997 Myanmar Open and the 2004 Thailand Open in the Asian tour.