April 15 (Reuters) - Having traded his racquet for a set of clubs, former world number nine tennis player Paradorn Srichaphan is planning on moving into the ranks of professional golf despite the Thai only taking up the sport two years ago.
The 33-year-old was forced to quit tennis in 2010 after failing to recover from a wrist injury but he plans to follow in the footsteps of Australian Scott Draper in swapping backhands for birdies.
“My goal is to be the first Asian athlete to change from another sport to professional golf,” Paradorn said in a statement on Monday.
”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
”I will turn professional this year. I put my time into this sport... I practice early morning and all day at golf.
“I have been playing the game for almost two years now, I started in April 2011 - not that long ago, really.”
Paradorn won five singles tennis titles, reached the fourth round at Wimbledon, U.S. and Australian Opens and recorded wins over grand slam winners Andre Agassi, Rafa Nadal and Marat Safin before suffering the career ending injury in a motorcycle crash.
Encouraged by his friend to take up golf, Paradorn has been hooked ever since and claims the injury does not hinder his game but he will need some more work before he is challenging the likes of Tiger Woods and U.S. Masters champion Adam Scott.
He will compete in the $100,000 Singha Pattaya Open at Burapha Golf Club on the ASEAN PGA Tour starting on Thursday, a feeder circuit for golfers in Southeast Asia below the more established Asian and OneAsia Tours.
It will be his second tournament on the regional circuit after two rounds of 81 meant he missed the cut at the Singha Esan Open in February. The Thai, though, was not downcast about his display.
“Over the two days, I was happy with my performance. I hit a lot of good shots and I managed to save par a lot,” the amateur said.
”Two birdies is not a lot but I try to do my best.
“A couple of holes I had an eight and a seven... if I could have avoided that it would have been a better score.” (Reporting by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by John O‘Brien)