BANGKOK, Feb 22 - Australian Kim Felton is hoping to put aside the disappointment of a two-year drought on the international stage with a return to the winner's circle on OneAsia in 2013.
The tall Perth native won the Midea China Classic by two strokes in 2010, but has struck a lean patch since -- his only victories coming on the Australian Pro-Am circuit.
Despite boasting 11 professional wins, including the 2005 Knoxville Open on the Nationwide Tour, the 37-year-old knows the clock is ticking on his prime years. His own biggest critic -- frequently in amusing tones on social media websites -- Felton is determined to make 2013 a year to remember, and where better to start than at the season-opening U.S. $1 million Thailand Open at Thana City Golf & Sports Club from March 14 - 17.
"The start of 2012 was definitely challenging for me for various reasons but I continued to work hard throughout the year and was pleased the work paid off at the right time before the season ended," said Felton, who won the Australian PGA Jeep Pro-Am series final in December and parlayed that into a brilliant top-five finish under brutal conditions a week later at the Emirates Australian Open.
Until then Felton had made just one cut on OneAsia in 2012, but his Open effort against a world class field gave him an early Christmas present.
"Paired with some swing changes I was working on, it all paid off and allowed me to keep my Australasian and OneAsia cards for 2013," he said.
"I took a week off at Christmas and New Year, but to be honest the schedule doesn't really allow for much more of a break. The Tier Two Australian events start early in January so I tend to start practicing straight after New Year celebrations to prepare. I ease back into practice focussing a lot on my short game. I try to play as many rounds as possible too, to prepare for tournament mode."
Felton and wife Gemma, a sports management professional who has also occasionally caddied for him on tour, are hoping to start a family while also maintaining their busy schedules.
"I am happy playing the Australian and OneAsia Tours as it suits our lifestyle in Perth, but naturally I would like to make a more comfortable living doing so," said Felton.
"My main goal for 2013 is continuing to work on consistent play and get results which will allow me to keep doing what I'm doing for many years to come. I've been inconsistent over the last few years so this is most critical for me.
"I've tried to be ambitious and realistic with my goals for 2013."
A long time Titleist ambassador, Felton recently switched to the marque's new CB irons -- a blade-style club that gives him more comfort and control. A new swing coach has also made a difference.
"I started working with Bradley Hughes late in 2012 and he was instrumental to my success at the end of the year," he said.
"He's now a permanent part of 'Team Felton'. We've been working on a lot of different things and I feel really comfortable with the way he breaks it all down and works through changes and feelings with me."
Another new element to his success in December was having Australian professional Tanya Holl Paterson on his bag.
"We grew up playing golf together and she understands me and my game which is really important on course," he said. "I'm hoping she'll be able to come to a few more OneAsia events with me this year."
One perk of winning the domestic Jeep Pro-Am series was an all-expenses paid trip to every stage of any Q-School of his choice at the end of this year.
"That has presented me with a great opportunity that would not otherwise have been there which is a fantastic bonus. At this stage I intend going to European Tour Q-School, but I will monitor how my year is going and make the final decision closer to the time."
One factor influencing his thinking is the burgeoning relationship between OneAsia and the Japan Golf Tour Organisation, who are co-sanctioning both the Thailand Open and the Enjoy Jakarta Indonesian PGA Championship from March 28-31. Earnings from either tournament count towards both Orders of Merit.
"I think it's fantastic that Japan are getting involved in the OneAsia Tour," said Felton.
"The more countries in the region that can support a unified approach to a full scheduled regional Tour, the better. Of course it's an added bonus to gain status into Japan as their Qualifying School is by far the hardest to conquer."