Australian rising star Rick Kulacz can’t wait to defend his title at the Brunei Open later this month.
The 24-year-old former world junior champion claimed his maiden Asian Tour victory at the imperious Empire Hotel and Country Club last year, thanks to a magical bunker shot for birdie which sealed a play-off triumph over veteran Lu Wen-teh of Chinese Taipei.
Kulacz still replays the wonder shot by the 18th greenside in his mind over and over again and is hoping to wield his clubs like a magic wand again when he returns to the sultanate from July 30 to August 2 for the US$300,000 Asian Tour event.
“Lu had already played a good shot from the bunker, and realistically I was just trying to get my shot closer than his. When the ball started to release towards the hole, I realized it had a good chance, and it was a pretty exciting moment when it fell in,” recalled Kulacz.
“The win gave me the confidence to know that I can succeed at this level. However, when you look at the world’s top players, they are performing at a very high level every week, and I need to continue to work hard to play at my best more often.”
The summer break in Asia was timely as Kulacz had been nursing a neck injury which affected his game. He missed numerous cuts, but turned his game around at the Ballantine’s Championship in Korea where he finished tied at 24th.
“I have struggled with my game and confidence, and it was not helped by a neck injury. It was good to play decently in Korea and to play with Ernie Els in the third round there was a treat,” said Kulacz.
“I have been practicing hard and playing in a few local events in western Australia. I have also been working hard on my conditioning, and I am really looking forward to getting back to the Asian Tour later this month.”
A return to the Jack Nicklaus-designed Empire course will certainly bring back happy memories for Kulacz, but he feels that the course simply sets fits his eye.
“I like the course … it sets up well for me, and away from the golf course, the hotel is just unbelievable. I have good memories from last year, and my goal is to try and defend my title,” he said.
Last year’s runner-up, Lu, will also be back to the Empire course to atone for last year’s disappointment where he could do very little when Kulacz blasted out from the greenside bunker and his ball found the bottom of the cup.
The Brunei Open is celebrating its fifth edition this year. Organizers will use this year’s tournament to promote environmental awareness.
About the Asian Tour
As the official sanctioning body for professional golf in Asia, the Asian Tour leads the development of golf across the region, enhancing the careers of its members while maintaining a commitment to the integrity of the game. The Asian Tour, through its membership of the International Federation of PGA Tours, is the only recognised pan-Asian professional golf tour in Asia. This unique feature positions the Asian Tour at the pinnacle of professional golf in Asia, providing its events with Official World Ranking status. Tour Partners include ESPN Star Sports (Official Regional TV Broadcaster), Pin High (Official Apparel Partner), Ricoh (Official Office Solutions Provider), and Srixon (Official Ball). Sentosa, Singapore’s premier island resort getaway, is the Home of the Asian Tour.