November 2, 2006 – UBS Hong Kong Open organisers are preparing to roll out the red carpet for the tournament’s first ever champion – the legendary Lu Liang Huan.
The famous “Mr Lu”, who put Asian golf on the world map when he finished runner-up to Lee Trevino in the 1971 British Open, has accepted an invitation to be guest of honour at the US$2 million Hong Kong showpiece.
The 70-year-old Taiwanese – winner of the inaugural Hong Kong Open in 1959 and again in 1974 – will attend a gala dinner saluting his achievements and conduct a ceremonial tee-off when the tournament is staged at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling on November 16-19.
It will be an emotional “homecoming” for the former champion as he was also head pro at Fanling from 1962-64.
“It’s been a while since I visited Hong Kong, so I’m really looking forward to the trip,” he said from his home in Taipei.
“I want to see and feel for myself how the game has developed in the region, especially nowadays when everyone’s talking about the development of golf in China.”
Lu’s golfing exploits are the stuff of legend. After winning his first Hong Kong title and becoming the club pro, he played an exhibition match at Fanling in 1964 against American superstar Arnold Palmer, who was so impressed he invited him to play in the United States.
He appeared in many high-profile tournaments in the US and played several times in the Masters at Augusta National.
But it was in 1971, at the 100th British Open at Royal Birkdale, that he became world famous. With his gentlemanly habit of tipping his pork-pie hat to the fans, he earned the moniker “Mr Lu” as he went toe-to-toe with the great Trevino, playing some magical golf before the American prevailed by a single shot.
A week later Lu won the French Open at Biarritz, becoming the first Asian ever to capture a European Tour title. In 1974, he returned to Fanling and regained his Hong Kong Open crown after a gap of 15 years.
These days, he remains heavily involved in the sport through his Lu Liang Huan Foundation, which supports junior golf development in Taiwan, and he has a pro shop in Taipei. He still plays the occasional round.
Kathryn Shih, Chief Executive, UBS Hong Kong Branch, welcomed the news that the tournament’s inaugural champion would be returning to Fanling.
“The unrivalled heritage and tradition of the Hong Kong Open were key factors influencing UBS’s decision last year to enter into a long-term partnership with the championship,” she said.
“To have the event’s first champion, Lu Liang Huan, join us this year as an event ambassador provides a great opportunity to celebrate the tournament’s history and highlight what makes the UBS Hong Kong Open truly unique in regional golf.
“To be able to announce Mr Lu’s participation in the tournament in the same week that KJ Choi, Jeev Milkha Singh and Liang Wenchong reinforced the strength of Asian golf with victories in three corners of the globe is particularly gratifying.
“The presence of the very best current and past stars of the Asian game reaffirms the UBS Hong Kong Open’s role as a showcase for golf in the region.”
Lu will be honoured at the UBS Hong Kong Open Gala Evening at the Mandarin Oriental hotel on November 14 when guests – including 2006 tournament drawcards Colin Montgomerie, Retief Goosen and Michael Campbell – will be shown a video montage of his greatest moments.
“It is fantastic news that Mr Lu has accepted the invitation to attend this year’s tournament and we are sure he will be a big hit with players and fans alike,” said Martin Capstick of event promoter Parallel Media Group.
“The UBS Hong Kong Open dates back almost half a century and is one of the oldest golf tournaments in Asia, so it has a history that other events in the region simply cannot match.
“As we move forward and improve the tournament year on year, it is important that we also acknowledge its heritage and pay tribute to the great players of the past, so inviting Mr Lu as an event ambassador is a key part of that.”
The field for the 2006 UBS Hong Kong Open will be spearheaded by defending champion Montgomerie, Major winners Goosen and Campbell, four-time PGA Tour winner Choi, Asian Tour UBS Order of Merit leader Singh and Chinese No.1 Liang.
The tournament will once again be co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours.