2018 will see the largest contingent of Fijian golfers tee it up in the country’s largest international event since the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airway’s inception in 2014.
The tournament will be headlined by Fiji’s own three-time Major winner Vijay Singh who will be joined by an additional seven Fijian players with a tournament invite being extended to three-time Japan Tour winner Dinesh Chand who is now working alongside Fiji Airways to bring groups of Japanese golfers to the country on Fiji Airways new direct route.
Last month Sam Lee who competes full time on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia secured his place in the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways as reward for his win at the Fiji Open. He became the first Fijian to win their National Open since 2002. Also qualifying via the Fiji Open was Tomasi Tuivuna.
Thanks to their performance in Local Qualifying Anasa Seruvatu, Viliame (Bill) Suguturaga, Roneel Prakash and Amitesh Chandra round out the Fijian competitors set to contest the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways.
It was a challenging two days at Local Qualifying as the strong winds famous to the Natadaola Bay Championship Golf Course ensured a stern test of golf for the 21 competitors.
Handling the challenge, Seruvatu fired rounds of 78 and 74 to take out medallist honours on 8-over 152.
This is the second time Seruvatu has qualified to compete in the Fiji International after he teed it up in 2015 and recorded rounds of 90, 87 to finish 125th.
“I’m very happy to qualify again. It’s a great privilege to compete in front of my friends and family on the world stage,” said Seruvatu.
With rounds of 78 and 77 Suguturaga finished third in Local Qualifying and will make his third appearance at the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways. He made his debut in 2015 shooting rounds of 96, 84 to finish 127th the following year rounds of 83 and 86 saw him finish 129th.
Finishing second at Local Qualifying this year was Roneel Prakash with rounds of 79 and 75. He will make his debut in the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways in a few weeks time.
A passionate golfer and teacher at Lautoka Delana School, Prakash already has a connection to the golf tournament delivering the Westpac Golf in Schools Program. Last year he completed his Community Coach Certificate through the PGA of Australia but this year Prakash’s golf skills will be on display for his students in a world-class international golf tournament.
“I’m just trying to let this sink in; I’ll be competing alongside the likes of Vijay Singh and Ernie Els in a few weeks time. I’m not sure what to say, I’m very excited,” said Prakash.
Also making his debut in the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways is Amitesh Chandra who secured the final position in the field with rounds of 80,76.
Having previously worked on the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways in his role as Golf Operations Manager at the Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course, Chandra was clear to compete in Local Qualifying since moving into his new role at Denarau Golf and Raquet Club.
His previously role will also ensure he is familiar with the layout when he tees it up in the tournament from 2-5 August.
Eight Fijians qualifying for this year’s event ensures the largest local contingent will be on course in the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways since it began in 2014.
“Having a strong contingent of Fijian players competing in their Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways is very important to the tournament but also to the long-term success of golf in Fiji,” said Gavin Kirkman CEO of the PGA of Australia which along with Sports and Entertainment Limited own the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways.
“We would like to showcase Fijian golfing talent to provide young children who attend the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways role models to admire and look up to.
“For golf to continue to grow and evolve in Fiji these role models are very important. Vijay Singh has shown that it is possible for a Fijian to compete at the highest echelons of the game. By competing on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia, Sam Lee is also demonstrating how a young Fijian can begin to forge a golf career.
“It is wonderful to see Anasa Seruvatu and Bill Suguturaga qualify for the tournament again, I know their past experience playing the course and in a world class tournament will be of benefit to them when they stand on the first tee again this year.
“I am also delighted to see Roneel Prakash, a school teacher who has introduced golf to his students, now have the opportunity to compete on the world stage in front of them.
“I also look forward to welcoming Amitesh Chandra on to the tee in the first round of the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways. Working alongside David Roche at Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course, Amitesh was a valued member of the Fiji International team so it is very exciting to see him now have the opportunity to tee it up in his country’s biggest international event.”
The Fiji International tees off on Thursday 2 August with the champion crowned on Sunday 5 August.
Entry is free for Fijians to attend the tournament at Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course.