Hong Kong's James Stewart is hoping to kick off the Year of the Snake on a positive note with a berth in this year's US$3.2 million Volvo China Open.
Stewart has signed up for next week's international qualifier at Luhuitou Golf Club in Sanya. The top three players from the 36-hole event on February 27-28 will win a coveted place in China's national open, which will once again take place at Binhai Lake Golf Club in the eastern port city of Tianjin in early May.
"I think this event owes me something, as I lost in a play-off twice before when the international qualifier was played at Discovery Bay Golf Club," said Stewart. "I've played in the Open twice before, but before it became a European Tour event."
The 38-year-old Stewart now limits his tournament schedule to spend more time on his business of manufacturing golf bags and accessories.
A former regular on the Asian Tour, Stewart set up his company in 2008, the same year he stopped playing full time tournament golf when his form deteriorated.
"I was playing awful and really wasn't enjoying it any more," Stewart said. "It's only been over the last couple of years that I've played a few more events that I have seen some improvement.
"I think getting all the clutter out of my head has really helped. When I was playing full-time I had too many swing thoughts, which created tension."
Last month Stewart had one hand on the Hong Kong PGA Championship trophy when he stood on the tee of the par-five 17th at Kau Sai Chau with a one-stroke lead in the final round. However, less than half an hour later he had to settle for the runner-up spot after a triple bogey eight on the same hole saw him hand victory to defending champion Unho Park, of Australia.
"It's been many years since I've been in contention in a proper tournament so I was happy at the end of the day to even have a chance to win," said Stewart.