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Golf: Taiwan’s Lu continues courageous comeback with overseas trip to Japan

Lu Wei-chih’s appearance at this week’s Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open will mark his first overseas tournament in over a year since recovering from brain tumour surgery. Photo: Asian Tour.

September 24, 2013: Lu Wei-chih will travel abroad for the first time in over a year since recovering from a brain tumour surgery when he features in the Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open which starts in Osaka, Japan, on Thursday.


Lu, 34, took a year off to recover from his operation and returned to the Asian Tour at the Yeangder Tournament Players Championship on home soil two weeks ago where he finished tied 32nd, having earlier competed in an Asian Development Tour event, also in Taiwan.


A three-time Asian Tour winner, Lu will be among a strong line-up of stars gathered at the Ibaraki Country Club including defending champion Masanori Kobayashi of Japan, Anirban Lahiri of India and an in-form Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand, who won his 16th Asian Tour title a fortnight ago.


Current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, 10-time Japan Tour winner Yuta Ikeda and former event champions Hideto Tanihara and Daisuke Maruyama will also feature at the Y150 million (US$1.5 million) tournament, which is sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour.


Since returning to the fairways, Lu has rediscovered his passion for the game, but was confined to playing and practising at home only. It was only recently that he was given the green light by his doctor to travel to Japan.


“This year, it’s going to be special and different because it’s my first event overseas since I returned to play on the Asian Tour. My wife will be joining me as she’s worried about me and wants to come along,” Lu said.


“I had planned to go on a trip with my family earlier this year, but my doctor didn’t allow me to jump on a plane then. My doctor was worried that the cabin pressure would affect the wound I had from the surgery.”


Lu finished ninth on the 2011 Asian Tour Order of Merit and was at the peak of his playing powers before he was diagnosed with a non-cancerous growth. He hopes to rediscover his best form and put behind what he claims was the ‘lowest point’ in his career.


“I have not flown for about a year. Now that my doctor has given me the green light to take the plane, I’m really looking forward to this trip to Japan. Hopefully everything goes well for me,” he said.


“I feel very honoured to be part of the field at the Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open. It’s a very big and well organised event. Players are treated well during the tournament. I hope the tournament can continue to take place every year.”


Thai youngster Thitiphun Chuayprakong hopes the hard work and time put into practice and the gym will lead him to a first victory on the Tour, which is celebrating its 10th season in 2013.


Thitiphun, known as ‘Tote’ (Thai for slow) by his friends because he does things at a relaxed pace, will aim to recover from the Yeangder TPC where he held the first-round lead before going on to finish tied 21st.


“I worked hard during the break. I spent five to six hours practising golf and another hour and a half at the gym. I feel stronger now and I hope that this will help me win my first Asian Tour title,” said the 21-year-old.


Players are fighting to be make the top 10 on the Order of Merit as of October 7 to qualify for the US$7 million CIMB Classic in Malaysia, which is sanctioned by the Asian Tour and PGA Tour.


The leading two players on the rankings as of October 14, not otherwise exempt, will qualify for the US$8.5 million WGC-HSBC Champions in China. Kiradech has already qualified for the event by virtue of his victory at the Maybank Malaysian Open.


The Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open is hosted by the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation, Panasonic Corporation and Japan Golf Association.

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