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His inspiration, however, was Sukree, the first Thai to play in the Masters in 1970.

Sukree is living in Bangkok and still competes in a few two-day events for those 70 and older. The only memento he brought home from Augusta was a plate with the Masters logo, though he’s not sure where it is. His memory of his two appearances, however, is vivid.

“I was so excited and so proud to be the first Thai to play the Masters,” Sukree said. “I remember seeing so many audiences even in the practice round on Tuesday. The crowd got even bigger during the competition. I had to admit that I have never seen so many fans before.”

He played his first round with Dave Stockton, who later that year won his first major at the PGA Championship.

“The only thing that I recall is that I bowed to him on the first tee because I wanted him to feel comfortable,” Stockton said. “And then he birdied the first hole. And I think he might have made eagle on the second hole. And in my mind I’m thinking, `Forget this, you better start playing because this guy is not too overwhelmed.’”

Like the other Thais who eventually followed his path, Sukree began as a caddie and learned to play by watching. During the Vietnam War, he said an American military officer often came to the Hua Hin district in Thailand to play golf. He saw that Sukree had potential and gave him a set of clubs, and Sukree began taking it seriously.

He doesn’t remember why he was worthy of an invitation to play in the Masters, perhaps because he was runner-up in the World Cup in Singapore in 1969. And he had no idea that some 40 years later, a Thai playing at Augusta National would not be that unusual.

“I’m happy that we will have more and more Thais playing the Masters,” he said. “Three of them have made fame for the nation, from European and Asian tours. I knew that someday there would be more Thais playing the Masters … and that day has arrived.

“I know all of them. I feel proud that they can play there,” he said. “I have no idea if I was their inspiration because it was a long time ago. I just knew that one day where would be other Thais playing in the Masters.”

Sukree never made the cut in his two appearances. He shot 78-84 in 1970, finishing ahead of only former Masters and U.S. Open champion Ralph Guldahl, who was 58. A year later, he shot 77-78 and missed the cut by five shots.

No Thai has made it to the weekend at Augusta. Prayad opened with a 70 in 2009, only to follow with an 84.

As long as it took to get here, and as hard as he worked, Thaworn has modest goals. Wearing a green jacket is not among them _ just the mention of winning made him smile and shake his head as if that were too much to ask.

“If I made the cut,” he said, “it would make me happy.”