Thomson returns without the fanfare

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 October, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 October, 1996, 12:00am

One of the greatest golfers ever to have trodden Fanling's fairways flew into Kai Tak Airport yesterday. But unlike the welcomes for Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Ernie Els and Colin Montgomerie, there was no fanfare over his arrival. In contrast to the main drawcards, who have agreed to grace the territory with their presence at this week's US$500,000 Alfred Dunhill Masters, he saw no chauffeur-driven courtesy car, nor is he staying in Hong Kong's finest hotel.

Australian Peter Thomson would not want it any other way. As a five-time winner of the British Open, Thomson is a genuine giant of the game whose links with the territory date back to 1960 when he marked his Fanling debut with an imperious 10-stroke victory in the Hong Kong Open. Since then, Thomson has been one of Asian golf's most supportive friends. He was among the prime movers behind the formation of the Asian Tour and as far back as the mid-1960s was mooting the idea of the formation of an Asian PGA.

In addition to winning three Hong Kong Open crowns (1960, 1965 and 1967), Thomson also triumphed in the 1964 Philippine Open and the 1976 Indian Open. These days, Thomson is helping Asian golf as a course designer rather than as a player. 'I don't play so well these days. I hit the ball sideways,' he said. Like Ballesteros, Langer, Els and Montgomerie, Thomson will spend the next couple of days striding the fairways of the Hong Kong Golf Club. But he will be keeping an eye on the progress of the Hong Kong Golf Club's Old Course, more than the competition. For the design company of Thomson, Wolveridge and Perrett, have been charged with the responsibility of upgrading the eldest and most historic of Fanling's three 18-hole layouts. 'The Old Course has been crying out for restoration and modernisation,' he said, adding that the work would be carried out in stages with completion by the summer of 1998.