As Panasonic Open Japan is cancelled past champ Gangjee recalls event with fond memories

Rahil Gangjee with Panasonic Open Japan Trophy. Pic: Asian Tour; Gangjee practicing at home. Pic: Rahil Gangjee

New Delhi, August 1: Rahil Gangjee loves every golf event he plays, but is quite emotional about the Panasonic Open Japan, an event he won September 2018.  It holds special memories for him for it ended a 14-year title drought on the Asian Tour for him.

He won his first Asian Tour title in 2004, his first full year on the Asian Tour. He finished in Top-10 a few times after that, but always missed out on closing the deal. He had won a few on the Indian Tour, but as he once said, “To win with the Indian flag in sight and on an international course is a great feeling.”

Four years before his success in Japan, Gangjee lost a play-off at the Panasonic Open India to his city mate, SSP Chawrasia. “That was a close one. SSP is a great friend of mine, so it was alright to lose to him. He is one of the India’s big stars with so much success and a great guy.”

Gangjee’s first success on Asian Tour came at the Volkswagen Masters in China in its inaugural year and the next two editions were both won by Retief Goosen with Michael Campbell as the runner-up.

Interestingly, among the ones Gangjee finished ahead of in 2004 were Kyi Hla Han, who later became the Commissioner of the Asian Tour, legendary Jeev Milkha Singh, China’s Zhang Lianwei and India’s highly popular Gaurav Ghei among others.

“The win at Panasonic Open Japan (in 2018) in Chiba gave me a second lease of life in my career. In the years before that I went to the US and played the Web.com Tour (now called Korn Ferry) and after losing my card I came back to Asia. I had work my way up again in India and on Asian Tour. So the win in Japan was fantastic. It motivated me a lot,’ recalls Gangjee. Since 2018 he has divided his time between Asian and Japan Tours.

“I simply love Japan. It is a great place in every sense and I now love its food, the people, the local travel and they love their golf and respect golfers like no other country,” adds Gangjee, who also finished second in the Panasonic Swing in 2017-18.

However this year, with the exception of the Singapore Open, which is co-sanctioned with Japan Tour, no other event has been held on Japan Tour, which normally sees action from April onwards. There is little likelihood of events starting anytime soon, so like all other Tours players with exempt status for 2020 will get to keep the same for 2021.

Earlier this week, the Panasonic Corporation and Japan Golf Tour Organization (JGTO) and the Asian Tour announced the cancellation of the 2020 Panasonic Open Golf Championship in Japan due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 edition was called off due to health and safety concerns, as well as international travel restrictions on players living outside of Japan.

On the cancellation of the event, Cho Minn Thant, Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer of the Asian Tour, said: “Panasonic has always been a great supporter of the Asian Tour. We are very thankful for their continued commitment and contributions in promoting professional golf across the region despite the challenging circumstances the world is experiencing in 2020.”

The popular event, which celebrated its milestone 10th edition on the Asian Tour in 2019, was originally scheduled to be held at the Joyo Country Club in Kyoto Prefecture, Japan, from September 24 to 27. The event which began in 2008 was not held in 2014 and 2015.

Gangjee is one of the two non-Japanese players to have won the Panasonic Open Japan, the other being the Australian star, Brendan Jones, a Japan Tour regular, in 2010. Since 2002, Jones has 15 wins on Japan Tour, including once in 2019.

The Asian Tour and JGTO will continue to work in unison with the Panasonic Corporation for the next and future editions.

Past champions of the Panasonic Open Golf Championship include Toshinori Muto (2019), Rahil Gangjee (2018), Kenichi Kuboya (2017), Yuta Ikeda (2016), Masahiro Kawamura (2013), Masanori Kobayashi (2012), Tetsuji Hiratsuka (2011), Brendan Jones (2010), Daisuke Maruyama (2009) and Hideto Tanihara (2008).

Read also:

Kapur finishes 2nd in Panasonic Swing; Panasonic Open Japan cancelled

 

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