Former tennis star eyeing career on links

Reuters and AFP, Bangkok

Wed, Apr 17, 2013 - Page 19

He’s a former top-10 tennis player who has dabbled in politics, business and acting. Now Thailand’s Paradorn Srichaphan is taking on possibly his most ambitious challenge — professional golf.

The 33-year-old was forced to quit tennis in 2010 after failing to recover from a wrist injury, but he plans to follow in the footsteps of Australian Scott Draper in swapping backhands for birdies.

“My goal is to be the first Asian athlete to change from another sport to professional golf,” Paradorn said in a statement yesterday.

“Scott Draper from Australia, a top 50 player in world at tennis, he turned pro in Australia playing golf — he was the first one,” Paradorn said. “I want to do the same and create history for a Thai athlete.”

“I will turn professional this year. I put my time into this sport ... I practice early morning and all day at golf,” he said.

“I have been playing the game for almost two years now, I started in April 2011 — not that long ago, really,” Paradorn said.

The Thai won five singles tennis titles, reached the fourth round at Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open and recorded victories over Grand Slam winners Andre Agassi, Rafa Nadal and Marat Safin before suffering the career ending injury in a motorcycle crash.

Encouraged by a friend to take up golf, Paradorn has been hooked ever since and claims the injury does not hinder his game, but he will need some more work before he is challenging the likes of Tiger Woods and US Masters champion Adam Scott.

He will compete in the US$100,000 Singha Pattaya Open at Burapha Golf Club on the ASEAN PGA Tour starting on Thursday, a feeder circuit for golfers in Southeast Asia below the more established Asian and OneAsia Tours.

It will be his second tournament on the regional circuit after two rounds of 81 meant he missed the cut at the Singha Esan Open in February. The Thai, though, refused to be downcast about his display.

“Over the two days, I was happy with my performance. I hit a lot of good shots and I managed to save par a lot,” he said.

“Two birdies is not a lot, but I try to do my best,” Paradorn said. “A couple of holes I had an eight and a seven ... if I could have avoided that it would have been a better score.”

Paradorn, who has spent time as a Buddhist monk, has had mixed fortunes in recent years, splitting from his wife, former Miss Universe Natalie Glebova, and announcing a bid to stand for parliament in 2011.

Among his varied portfolio of ventures, he has also opened a restaurant, launched a health supplement billed as a herbal alternative to Viagra, and played a leading role in 2010 Thai movie Bang Rajan 2.