November 13, 2007 – Golfing legend Peter Thomson remembers the first Hong Kong Open in 1959 only too well – because he was lying on a beach in his native Australia at the time.
“I was there on the beach and a radio report came on about it,” he recalled. “And I thought, ‘Hey, they’re playing the Hong Kong Open, why am I not there?’ I made sure I was there the next year!”
Thomson not only turned up in 1960, he won the tournament, the first of three successes that helped build the event’s reputation as the jewel in the crown of Asian golf.
He is back at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling this week as guest of honour at the 49th staging of the UBS Hong Kong Open.
“I’m in the stages now of dignitary – I sit around and look important, but I’m not!” laughed Thomson, who has travelled to Hong Kong from his home town of Melbourne.
“It’s very nice to be invited and to be honoured in this way. I’m pleased with that.”
Thomson, 78, is being feted at the UBS Hong Kong Open Gala Evening at the Hong Kong Exhibition Centre, China Resources Building, Wanchai on Tuesday, November 13.
Guests – including many of the star players at this year’s tournament – will be shown a video montage of his greatest moments.
Thomson ranks as one of the giants of the game, having won the British Open an incredible five times between 1954 and 1965 as part of a hugely successful career on the European Tour.
At the same time, while at the peak of his powers, he was a great supporter of the fledging professional golf scene in Asia, winning tournaments across the region.
He followed up his Fanling victory in 1960 with further successes in 1965 and 1967.
Since 1970, he has also run a hugely successful golf course design business, with the Hong Kong Golf Club’s Eden Course – one of three at the club – being one of his company’s first projects.
Thomson will be a keen spectator at Fanling this week and is pinning his hopes on fellow Australian and PGA Tour star Stuart Appleby, who is making his Hong Kong debut.
“I always have high hopes for him, particularly when he is looking good and healthy,” said Thomson. “He’s one of the favourites, I’m sure.”