Born 12 years before the Asian Tour was founded, the Caltex Maekyung Open has been part of the professional golf scene in this region since 1982.
Originally part of the Asian Golf Circuit (the forerunner to the Asian Tour), it has been a mainstay of golf in Korea and produced winners from all over the world.
Golf Australia magazine’s own Mike Clayton hoisted the trophy in 1984 on one of only four occasions when the tournament was played at a course other than NamSeoul Country Club.
Mark Calcavecchia was the last international winner in 2004 with local Korean players dominating in the 17 years since.
DEFENDING CHAMPION: In-Hoi Hur won this event in 2021 when it was played on the Korean Tour, the local reaching five-under-par over four rounds to claim his fourth win on his home Tour with one Japan Golf Tour win also on his resume.
Last season’s Asian Tour Order of Merit winner, Joohyung Kim, finished runner-up last year two shots back.
COURSE: For a course that has been so prominent in professional golf in the region NamSeoul Country Club is surprisingly difficult to find much in the way of information or reviews.
RIGHT: In-Hoi Hur claimed the title in 2021 when the field was a standalone Korean Tour event. PHOTO: Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images.
The Asian Tour’s own website carries no details (except to note the course is 6,430 metres long with a par of 71) and despite multiple searches it seems the club does not have its own website.
YouTube and image searches show a course built in a mountainous landscape with holes isolated from each other by dense trees.
The comprehensive Top 100 Golf Courses website says the course was laid out by Japanese designer Seiichi Inoue and features greens predominantly sloping from front to back.
A drastic shift in winning scores around 2015 suggests changes were made to the course at that time with 2020 the only time since that a score of double digits under par has won.
Prior to that, scores were regularly in the 14-under-par to 20-under-par range.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: As a co-sanctioned event with the Korean PGA Tour there is, not surprisingly, a large contingent of local players unknown to those of us outside that country.
Adding to the difficulty this week is the fact that no international players has won the tournament since 2004.
However, several of the Asian Tour’s most consistent performers this year will tee up with a goal of breaking that run of home-grown victories.
Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai has been threatening a breakthrough win for much of the season.
He is yet to miss a cut in six starts and his last three outings have returned finishes of runner-up, T6 and outright fourth.
Testament to his consistency is the fact he is second on the Order of Merit and he is a clearly a good and improving player.
Local hopes will be heavily slanted towards Joohyung Kim and Bio Kim, placed third and fifth on the Order of Merit respectively.
Joohyung looks a particularly impressive prospect and impressed many with his win at the Singapore International earlier this year.
Bio Kim was one of Korea’s best prospects a decade ago and qualified for the PGA Tour at the age of just 20 though lost his card the following year.
A winner of this event at this course in 2012, he will be rightly confident ahead of Thursday’s opening round and it would be no surprise to see him at the business end of the leaderboard Sunday.
72-HOLE RECORD: 267 (-21, K.T. Kim, 2011)
PAST AUSSIE WINNERS: Mike Clayton (1984)
AUSTRALIANS IN THE FIELD: Travis Smyth, Cory Crawford, Will Heffernan, Scott Strange, Kevin Yuan, Won Joon Lee and Junseok Lee.
Round 1: Thursday (Fox Sports 503 2pm –6pm)
Round 2: Friday (Fox Sports 503 2pm – 6pm)
Round 3: Not televised.
Round 4: Sunday (Fox Sports 503 4pm – 7pm)
*AEST, check local guides