The young man from Myanmar was a curiosity at the Hong Kong Open in the late 80s. He was not from a recognised golfing country, he was an unknown player and the media needed to know how to pronounce his name. Kyi Hla Han (chee la haan) was smart, erudite, charismatic and not a bad golfer either. What no one realised at the time was this diminutive golfing anomaly would one day become a giant of the Asian game. Han, who died in Singapore on Saturday of complications that arose after treatment for cancer, aged 61, went on to become one of the founding members of the Asian Tour, the regional circuit that would give players from a Asia a greater say in their own golfing affairs. As chief of the tour, Han created a thriving circuit that gave Asian players a chance to play more often and earn a living. His legacy was not forgotten as the Asian Tour last year forged a partnership with Saudi Arabian stakeholders under the management of Australian great Greg Norman to offer bigger tournaments with larger prize purses and attract high-profile players. During this very sad moment, the Asian Tour pays tribute to Kyi Hla Han. The Tour would not be where it is today without him. May you rest in peace, Kyi Hla. You will be greatly missed and never forgotten. 🙏 https://t.co/1yCCKM6aS8 pic.twitter.com/ry58M81zlO — Asian Tour (@asiantourgolf) February 21, 2022 “There are few words to express the loss that everyone at the Asian Tour is feeling at the moment,” Cho Minn Thant, Commissioner and CEO of the Asian Tour, said. “First and foremost, our heartfelt condolences and prayers go out to his family at this very difficult time. We are all only just processing the news as we recently saw him at the SMBC Singapore Open in January. Asian golf has lost one of its greatest players, its greatest personalities, and its greatest leaders. We will forever remember Kyi Hla.” Extremely saddened by the news of Kyi Hla Han. He has been a dear friend of mine for many, many years. An amazing golfer, and an even better human being. He knew how to enjoy his life on and off the golf course. Thanks for making our lives better Kyi Hla. #RIP https://t.co/ip2RFtmC0z — Jeev Milkha Singh (@JeevMilkhaSingh) February 21, 2022 Han turned professional in 1980 and enjoyed a 25-year playing career that saw him win on 12 occasions, most notably in the 1994 Singapore Open and the Volvo China Open in 1999, the year he claimed the Merit list. He also represented Myanmar in five World Cups. He would become equally well known for his executive role in shaping the Tour after retiring from competitive golf in 2004 and assuming the role as executive chairman in 2006. Han, who lived in Hong Kong for several years with his wife Marlene and daughters before moving to Singapore, was the first Asian to hold this position and by drawing on two and a half decades of experience he successfully led the Tour for more than 10 years. “On a personal note, Kyi Hla was a mentor to many of us within the management of the Asian Tour and was a massive influence in many of our lives and careers,” Cho added. “He always put the Asian Tour and its members first and was ultra-passionate about seeing Asian golf rise up on to the world stage. We will strive to continue his legacy and make him proud of the Asian Tour that he devoted his life to.” A true flag-bearer for Asian golf, outside the sport he was laid back, funny and very popular. Charismatic beyond words, he always had time for anyone who needed advice, and everyone was welcome in his home. He loved his family, music and the great outdoors. “Early reaction to the news from around the world has been overwhelming,” said Dominique Boulet, an Asian Tour board member and close friend. “It is a true indication of the tremendous impression he left on everyone he met. Small in stature but with a big game and a bigger heart, he was the best, most loyal, supportive and generous friend a man could ever ask for. His eternal optimism and laughter is a loss to us all.” Speaking to the Asian Tour last year on the eve of his 60th birthday, Kyi Hla said: “I had wanted to be a pro golfer since I was 10 years old. I’ve been very fortunate to pursue a sport that I loved. Travelling all over the world, meeting new people, making so many friends, and playing a lot of great tournaments and golf courses.” The Tour will be creating a Kyi Hla Han Future Champion Award in his honour to aid the development of juniors and the sport of golf in Asia.