The Asian Tour’s beloved former executive chairman Kyi Hla Han (chee la haan) recently passed away at the age of 61.
Revered in the golf world for his contributions as both a player and an official, the Burmese golfing icon died in Singapore last Saturday due to cancer treatment complications, the Asian Tour announced on Monday. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.
The trailblazing golfer
Han, who turned professional in 1980 at the age of 19, registered his first wins as a professional at the Malaysian Dunlop Masters and the Malaysian Professional Golf Association (PGA) Championship in 1983.
As one of the first Asian golfers to compete internationally, he had a busy schedule, averaging around 35 events a year to play in Asia, Europe and Australia.
“I had wanted to be a pro golfer since I was 10 years old,” Han shared on the eve of his 60th birthday last year. “I’ve been very fortunate to pursue a sport that I loved. Traveling all over the world, meeting new people, making so many friends, and playing a lot of great tournaments and golf courses.”
In his 25-year golfing career, he won a total of 12 tournaments, including the 1994 Singapore Open and 1999 Volvo China Open. He also represented his birth country of Myanmar in five World Cups.
In the 1999 season, Han also won the tour’s Order of Merit, which came with exemptions into the 2000 World Golf Championships–American Express Championship in Spain and the British Open at St. Andrews.
“Growing up, Kyi Hla was ‘the man’ in Asia, the guy we looked up to, the name every golfer knew,” said Malaysian Asian Tour member Iain Steel.
The visionary official
In 2006, two years after retiring from competitive golf, Han became the Asian Tour’s executive chairman.
His new role, which allowed him to guide the Asian Tour to the prestige level of the PGA Tour, became as remarkable as his stellar career as a golfer. Being the first Asian to hold the position also made it equally historic.
Han led the fostering of a circuit that provided opportunities for Asian golfers to compete and find ways to make a career out of golf.
Han also played a significant role in making the Asian Tour become known as one of the most prestigious professional golf tours in the world.
Current Asian Tour Commissioner and CEO Cho Minn Thant lamented Han’s passing, saying, “Asian golf has lost one of its greatest players, its greatest personalities, and its greatest leaders. We will forever remember Kyi Hla.”
The Asian Tour noted in its press release that it will create a Kyi Hla Han Future Champion Award “to aid the development of juniors and the sport of golf in Asia.”