LVH exclusive - Queen's Cup draws stars to Samui

Thailand was the world's 5th fastest growing golfing destination.

The official regional sanctioning body for professional golf in Asia, the Asian Tour, recently announced the return on the Queen's Cup championship match from June 13 - 16 at Santiburi Samui Country Club on Koh Samui

The tournament was named in honour of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, with its full name, "Queen's Cup Bangkok Airways-SAT Samui Golf Tournament 2013", reflecting two of the main sponsors -- Thailand's boutique airline, and the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT).

2013 is a milestone year for the Asia Tour, which celebrates its 10th season this year.

With US$300,000 in prize money, and a chance to tee off at one of the most beautiful golf course in Asia, the Queen's Cup promises to be a fitting event for an important anniversary year.

Contenders expected to compete in the four-day tournament include Mardan Mamat from Singapore, eight-time Asian Tour winner Jyoti Randhawa from India, and Danny Chia from Malaysia. Defending his 2012 title and headlining this year's event will be Thailand's very own Thaworn Wiratchant. Joining him and representing the host country are Chawalit Plaphol (2011 winner), and Chinnarat Phadungsil (2009 winner).

Since the Queen's Cup's inception in 2009, the tournament has always been won by Thais, with the exception of 2010, when Tetsuji Hiratsuka from Japan claimed the trophy. HIratsuka is also expected to return to the Queen's Cup this year, while other players to watch out for include South Korea's Lee Sung, Thailand's Arnond Vongvanij, Australia's Scott Hend, and Anirban Lahiri, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Prayad Marksaeng,

Out of the 30-plus Asian Tour tournaments taking place throughout the year, four are held in Thailand, including the Chiangmai Golf Classic presented by PTT, the upcoming Queen's Cup, the Thailand Golf Championship, and the King's Cup, the latter two both held in December. In the first quarter of the year, the kingdom also hosted two qualifying tournaments -- the 2013 Qualifying School Final Stage,  and The Open Championship International Final Qualifying - Asia.

There are approximately 250 golf course across Thailand, from mountainside greens in Chiang Rai to seaside putts on Koh Samui and Phuket. According to figures recently released by inbound golf tourism firm Golfasian, last year's inbound golf tourism is estimated to have injected US$2.88 billion into the local economy.

The kingdom's reputation as a golfer's paradise also got a boost in April 2013, when it hosted the 2nd Asia Golf Tourism Convention -- the largest ever convention staged in the Asia-Pacific region -- an event organized by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO). At the event, it was IAGTP operators revealed that Thailand was the world's 5th fastest growing golfing destination.