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Golf | Golf Globe

Paradorn Srichaphan © Gallo Images

Ex-tennis star courts golf career



He's a former top-10 tennis player who has dabbled in politics, business and acting. Now Thailand's Paradorn Srichaphan is taking on possibly his most ambitious challenge – professional golf.

Despite taking up the game just two years ago, the 33-year-old is hopeful of making the unusual transition to a pro career, and this week he will make his second invitational appearance on Southeast Asia's ASEAN PGA Tour.

"To make a living (from golf) is not my goal," Paradorn said, according to a press release from tour organisers. "My goal is to be the first Asian athlete changing from other another sport to play professional golf.

"Scott Draper from Australia, a top 50 player in world at tennis, he turned pro in Australia playing golf – he was the first one. I want to do the same and create history for a Thai athlete."

Other top tennis players have tried their hand at the capricious game of golf, including Ivan Lendl, the eight-time Grand Slam winner and current coach of Andy Murray, who has competed in a handful of professional events.

Rafael Nadal and Pete Sampras are also keen players, while Andy Roddick caddied for Zach Johnson at the par-three contest before the 2011 US Masters.

For Paradorn, it's a return to competitive sport after a wrist injury – originally sustained while racing motorbikes – forced him to retire from tennis in 2010, ending a career that took him to ninth in the world.

Paradorn, who has also spent time as a Buddhist monk, has had mixed fortunes in recent years, splitting from his wife, former Miss Universe Natalie Glebova, and announcing a bid to stand for parliament in 2011.

Among his varied portfolio of ventures, he has also opened a restaurant, launched a health supplement billed as a herbal alternative to Viagra, and played a leading role in 2010 Thai movie "Bang Rajan 2".

But a chance encounter in 2011 with a childhood friend, who is now a golf professional, introduced him to the game and he now practises daily at clubs in Bangkok and Pattaya.

From Thursday, Paradorn will put his skills to the test at the $100 000 Singha Pattaya Open, his second outing on the ASEAN PGA Tour after missing the cut with back-to-back 81s at the Singha Esan Open in February.

But he may be mindful of some cautionary words from Sampras, uttered ruefully after a tough outing on the course.

"In tennis, you can make a couple of mistakes and still win. Not in golf," said the 14-time Grand Slam winner.

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