siem reap province – Prime Minister Hun Sen ceremonially teed-off on the first hole of Siem Reap’s Phokeethra Country Club on Thursday, opening the Johnny Walker Cambodian Open—the country’s first international pro-golf tournament.
At the end of the day, it was Australian Adam Groom leading the pack of 124 golfers at seven under par, while Mitchell Brown, also Australian, and American Bryan Saltus tied for at six under.
Only the top 65 players at the end of today’s round of golf will advance to the last two days of the tournament, with the winner taking $47,550 of the $300,000 in prize money Sunday .
The Cambodian Golf Federation selected three local amateur golfers to participate in the tournament: Nep Savath, Kem Samrach, and Lieutenant General Eth Savath, who is RCAF deputy chief of staff and secretary-general of the Cambodian Golf Federation.
Nep Savath led the Cambodian golfers with eight over par, followed by Eth Savath with nine over par, and Kem Samrach, who came last in the tournament, finished with 17 over par. In the current standings, none of the Cambodian competitors are on track to qualify for the final two days of the tournament.
Sporting a CPP baseball cap and finishing the day with a 15-yard near-miss putt on the bunker-laden 18th hole, Eth Savath said he was happy just to participate .
“I’m not a professional, so I am very happy to join this tournament,” he said. “But today my score was not so well.”
The tournament’s opening day was light on spectators, with even the 18th green nearly devoid of viewers, but Eth Savath said that nonetheless he hoped the tournament would spur interest in golf among Cambodians.
He acknowledged that most Cambodians can’t afford to play the sport, but added that the Cambodian Golf Federation is trying to find local and international sponsors for aspiring Cambodian golfers.
Tourism Minister Thong Khon, who was on hand to open the tourney, said by telephone he was pleased with the first day and the location chosen for the competition.
“When people come to play golf, they will see Angkor Wat,” he said.