- Obama not worried about Ebola at upcoming African summit in D.C.
- Obama: ‘We tortured some folks’ after 9/11
- Obama administration asked whole D.C. Circuit to take on major Obamacare case
- Mark Levin: Topple GOP leadership or country will ‘unravel’
- Massachusetts to let police chief deny gun buys to those deemed unfit
- John Kerry condemns attack on Israeli soldiers, kidnapping
- U.S. starts to evacuate American Ebola patients from West Africa: Report
- Geraldo slammed as ‘dummy’ for backing Clinton’s bin Laden claim
- Israeli spokesman: No need to debate who broke the cease-fire
- 35 Palestinians killed; Israeli officer missing
Wiratchant the latest Thai to make it to Masters
Question of the Day
AUGUSTA, GA. (AP) - Thaworn Wiratchant is happy by nature, and on this day his smile was as wide as the fairways at Augusta National.
He is making his Masters debut at age 46. It was a rugged road to beautiful Magnolia Lane, as it was for the three players from Thailand who preceded him.
Golf was merely a means for survival. Thaworn picked up balls on the practice range until he was 13 and old enough to caddie. He learned to play with only a pitching wedge, and it was years before he had pieced together enough clubs to call it a full set. He became good enough to turn pro at age 21, and it wasn’t long before he started winning, first in Thailand and then on the Asian Tour.
It all was worth it when Thaworn received a phone call in January inviting him to play in the Masters.
“It’s a dream,” Thaworn said, tapping his heart at the thought of the invitation. “I never thought I would get the chance.”
Standing on the first tee on a quiet Sunday afternoon for his first practice round, Thaworn gazed down the first fairway. Was it everything he imagined? He smiled broadly without taking his eyes off the golf course until it was time to hit. With a distinctive swing _ hands are high above his head at the top of his swing _ he belted a tee shot toward the fairway bunker and was on his way.
Thongchai Jaidee was invited in 2006 and earned his way back in 2010 from being top 50 in the world. Prayad Marksaeng was invited in 2008, and he worked his way into the top 50 to earn a spot in 2009.
None of them had it easy.
Thongchai’s only club was the worn head of a Wilson 3-iron that he attached to a bamboo stick, his only club for two years. Prayad grew up in poverty, sleeping with 10 siblings in the upper room of a two-story house. He drove a three-wheel taxi for six hours in the morning, caddied, and then sold vegetables in the train station. His first club was a piece of metal attached to a stick, with a worn bicycle tire as the grip.
“If you want to be good, you have to work hard,” Thaworn said through an interpreter.
Thaworn has won 15 times on the Asian Tour, the most of any player, and he won the Order of Merit last year. He was the highest-ranked Thai when he received the invitation. Thongchai since has moved past him and nearly qualified for the Masters on his own. A third Thai, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, recently joined them among the top 100 in the world when he won the Malaysian Open.
“It’s really cool to see these guys,” said Tiger Woods, whose mother is Thai. “I’ve been there a bunch of times and have seen the golfing programs really grow. Golf wasn’t a sport that anyone ever played. It was for the very, very elite. But it’s neat to see these guys who have worked so hard, work themselves up through caddie programs or just find a stick and a ball and try and make something work. There’s a lot to be said about that. They know and they understand work ethic, and they go to it.”
Augusta National long has had an eye toward Asia, an emerging force in golf. That’s one reason it joined with the Royal & Ancient to create the Asia Pacific Amateur, which awards a spot in the Masters to the winner. Guan Tianlang, a 14-year-old from China, won last year and is the youngest player ever at the Masters.
Thaworn speaks very limited English, enough to say “green jacket” when asked about the Masters, and “Tom Watson” when asked his favorite player.
By Isaac Orr
New carbon-dioxide rules would put America in the dark
- House GOP resurrects border bill, predicts successful Friday vote
- U.N. condemns Israel, U.S. for not sharing Iron Dome with Hamas
- Border agents cleared of civil rights complaints from illegal immigrant children
- Obama military strategy too weak for future security, panel reports
- Porn-surfing feds blame boredom, lack of work for misbehavior
- Ben Carson takes major step toward presidential campaign
- Feds raid S.C. home to seize Land Rover in EPA emission-control crackdown
- CRUZ: A tale of two hospitals: One in Israel, one in Gaza
- Ted Nugent slams 'lying freaks' at liberal media: I'm 'doing God's work'
- Pentagon wants extra $19M to equip, train Ukrainian troops
Top 10 U.S. military helicopters
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors