A new year brings fresh hope for amateurs and pros alike

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 January, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 January, 1999, 12:00am

With each New Year comes fresh hope for golfers everywhere.

Hence the waves of optimism emanating from the estimated millions who play the game in Asia as to what lies ahead for them on the region's winding fairways in 1999.

As you set out, though, remember that, like in every round of golf, you can be certain of just one thing - that each passing year will bring with it highs as well as lows.

There will, to be sure, be birdies and bogeys. Hopefully more of the former, less of the latter.

When things don't go your way and your ball is buried in a deep trap or finds a watery grave, just consider your good fortune in having been introduced to the most beguiling and consuming of sporting activities.

Whatever your age or your handicap, every golfer, professional and amateur, eagerly anticipates the onset of January. Why? Well, it's a similar feeling to starting any new round, only magnified.

The slate is wiped clean. All those targets you had set yourself at the beginning of the previous year and failed to attain are consigned to the scrapheap. Out with the old.

Armed with your sparkling new graphite-shafted, titanium-headed weapons and a wild belief that this really is going to be the year that our golfing dreams turn to reality, we actually convince ourselves that, in golf, anything's possible.

Naturally, the expectations of us amateurs tend to be rather more modest and less grandiose than those of our professional counterparts. Then again, it's all relative.

For we all have golfing monkeys on our backs that we'd love to shake off in 1999.

Colin Montgomerie's, for example, is to make the Major breakthrough he has been threatening, and craving, for much of the 1990s.

Greg Norman's is to win a Major in America.

For Shigeki Maruyama, the Japanese star of last month's Presidents Cup, it's to secure a victory outside his home country.

Meanwhile, South Korea's Kang Wook-soon and Thailand's Boonchu Ruangkit will be locked in their own personal battle to become the first player to pass US$500,000 in earnings on the Asian PGA Tour.

Chinese number one Zhang Lianwei would love to secure his PGA European Tour playing rights and making his debut in a US PGA Tour event.

And Dominique Boulet, Hong Kong's leading exponent, will have his sights set on a maiden Asian PGA Tour triumph.

While much of the motivation for the pros comes from the sizeable financial rewards they stand to pick up if they achieve their targets, most amateurs remain driven by purer ideals.

For some it's simply to get an official handicap, for others it's to break a scoring barrier for the first time. Regardless of whether it's 100, 90, 80 or 70, the sense of achievement and satisfaction is comparable with anything a pro feels when finally throwing that troublesome monkey off their back.