SINGAPORE: Kyi Hla Han, one of the biggest figures in Asian golf both as a player and an official, has died, it was announced today.
The 61-year-old former Asian Tour No 1 and executive chairman died in Singapore on Saturday due to complications arising from cancer treatment.
“Asian golf has lost one of its greatest players, its greatest personalities and its greatest leaders,” Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief executive of the Asian Tour said in a statement. “We will forever remember Kyi Hla.”
Kyi Hla Han, who represented Myanmar in five World Cups and was pivotal in the growth of Asian golf after his retirement from competition in 2004, was described in the statement as “one of the most iconic figures in Asian golf”.
Tributes began to come in from Asia and beyond with former European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn tweeting: “This is real sad news. Kyi Hla, I will miss your friendly ways and our great discussions. Gone way too soon. Rest in peace my friend.”
Kyi Hla Han turned professional in 1980 and blazed a 25-year playing career that saw him win 12 times.
Among his most notable wins were in the 1994 Singapore Open and the Volvo China Open in 1999, the year he also claimed the Asian Tour Order of Merit title.
After retiring as a player, he became the tour’s executive chairman in 2006, the first Asian to assume the position which he held for more than 10 years.
“On a personal note, Kyi Hla was a mentor to many of us within the management of the Asian Tour and was a massive influence in many of our lives and careers,” Cho said.
“He always put the Asian Tour and its members first and was ultra-passionate about seeing Asian golf rise up on to the world stage.”
The Asia Tour said it will create a Kyi Hla Han Future Champion Award in his honour to help the development of junior golfers in the region.
“Early reaction to the news from around the world has been overwhelming,” said Asian Tour board member and golf broadcaster Dom Boulet, a close friend.
“Small in stature but with a big game and a bigger heart, he was the best, most loyal, supportive and generous friend a man could ever ask for. His eternal optimism and laughter is a loss to us all.”