Nicknamed the ‘Big Dolphin’, Prom Meesawat will hope to make a big splash at Royal Portrush after securing his place in The 148th Open through the SMBC Singapore Open.
The 34-year-old from Thailand will contest for the Claret Jug for only the second time in his career having made his first appearance at The 140th Open at Royal St George’s in 2011.
Meesawat was one of four golfers to ensure they will be teeing it up in Antrim in July after earning his exemption at the Singapore Open – the third event in The Open Qualifying Series.
He finished in a tie for fifth alongside Doyeob Mun as both players qualified for The Open - with Paul Casey (tied second) and Matthew Fitzpatrick (fourth) already exempt for Portrush.
And ahead of his return to The Open, which touches down in Northern Ireland for only the second time in its history, here’s everything you need to know about Meesawat.
Meesawat comes from the coastal town of Hua Hin, south of Bangkok, where he picked up the game by watching the likes of Boonchu Ruangkit and Prayad Marksaeng in action.
He showed his potential as a teenager by winning at the World Junior Golf Championships in 1997 and 2002, as well as being crowned Asia Pacific Junior Champion multiple times.
His nickname, the ‘Big Dolphin’, was born as a result of his birthplace and his burly physique and he initially planned on honing his game on in America on the amateur circuit.
But Meesawat, whose father Suthep was the first Thai to win the Thailand Open, was ultimately convinced by Fijian star Vijay Singh to turn professional and concentrate on the Asian Tour.
With a hat-trick of victories at the Thailand Open Amateur Championship also under his belt, he turned professional in 2004 and earned his Asian Tour card through qualifying school.Rookie season and injuries
A solid first season on the Asian Tour followed as he successfully kept his card with three top-20s before going on to finish third on the Order of Merit.
His first title arrived two years later at the SK Telecom Open in Korea, where he won by three shots over a field which included the likes of K.J. Choi, Jeev Milkha Singh and Michelle Wie.
After another consistent couple of seasons on the tour, including a sixth-place finish at the Singapore Open in 2007, Meesawat was hit by injury troubles in 2009 and 2010.
He lost his Asian Tour card for the first time in 2010, having only started 16 tournaments and missed the cut in ten, before getting his career back on track the following year.
Meesawat capped his comeback by winning the Asian edition of the Final Qualifying for The Open at Amata Spring Country Club near Bangkok with a two-day aggregate of 12-under.
Major debut excitement
A place at Royal St George’s – and a chance to play in his first major - was a prize Meesawat had long been pursuing and he paid tribute to those who had got his game back in shape.
“It’s my first major, I played very good the past two days,” he said. “My driving and everything else was very good. I’ve been working hard with my coach and psychologist and I need to thank them.
“My friends have been encouraging me all along when my form wasn’t good. It’s a good comeback for me. It’s a good feeling. To qualify for the oldest major, it’s an amazing feeling.”
His first taste of a major didn’t quite go to plan as rounds of 72 and 75 saw him miss the cut at Sandwich, where Darren Clarke reigned supreme to be crowned Champion Golfer.
But he continued his progress in 2013 by earning his European Tour card, before securing his long-awaited second Asian Tour victory by beating Miguel Tabuena in a play-off at Yeangder TPC.Securing Open return
He enjoyed six top-20s finishes in 2016 and went from strength to strength in the 2017 season, claiming four top-10 finishes in the last two months of the year.
And Meesawat can now look forward to his second appearance at The Open in July, after making a vital birdie putt on the 72nd hole to qualify for the first time since 2011.
“It’s nice to be going back to play in The Open this July for my second appearance in a major,” he said. “When the putt on the last hole went in, I felt really good.
“I still remember the experience of playing in The Open at Royal St George’s. It is one of the greatest majors and I have been trying to qualify again ever since.
“I am happy to finally have the chance to play in The Open again.”