Unlikely Cup boost for territory's trio
By SPENCER ROBINSON
HONGKONG were last night handed an unexpected boost in their bid to reach the Dunhill Cup finals - courtesy of Fijian superstar Vijay Singh.
The territory had originally been told they would have to pre-qualify for the World Qualifying tournament in Taiwan in two weeks' time.
But they were informed yesterday that they had been elevated to being one of six Asia-Pacific nations who go straight into the main qualifying tournament.
The lucky break for the territory's team of Yau Sui-ming, Dominique Boulet and Richard Kan came about following the late withdrawal from the Fijian team of Singh, ranked number 26 in the world.
Tournament director Peter German said: ''Because of Singh's withdrawal the International Advisory Committee have decided that Fiji no longer warrant an exemption and will now be asked to pre-qualify.
''As a consequence of this, the IAC have decided to exempt Hongkong from the pre-qualifying tournament.'' Joe Hardwick, chairman of the Hongkong PGA, said: ''We're delighted to be invited and our players are determined to make the most of our good fortune.'' Had Hongkong not been given an exemption they would have had to play against Burma, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Singapore in a 36-hole pre-qualifier with the top two progressing to the main qualifying event.
Their elevation in status also provides a cash boost. The Hongkong PGA no longer need to pay for the trip to Taiwan as the tournament sponsors pay for the flights, accommodation and meals of the six exempt teams.
And Yau, Boulet and Kan, having been spared the ordeal of pre-qualifying, will start out a step nearer to hitting the jackpot in the richest and most prestigious international team golf tournament in the world.
The seven-team pre-qualifier and 25-team qualifier will both be played at the Sunrise Golf and Country Club in Taipei.
The leading eight countries in the qualifier will go forward to the US$1.6 million finals at Royal St Andrews in Scotland in October where they will join eight seeded nations.
Only once in the eight-year history of the tournament have Hongkong qualified for St Andrews.
That was in the event's inaugural year of 1985 when the qualifiers were at Fanling.