Ex-tennis star Paradorn Srichapan of Thailand contemplating golf career now

BANGKOK (AFP) - He's a former top-10 tennis player who has dabbled in politics, business and acting. Now Thailand's Paradorn Srichaphan is taking on possibly his most ambitious challenge - professional golf.

Despite taking up the game just two years ago, the 33-year-old is hopeful of making the unusual transition to a pro career, and this week he will make his second invitational appearance on the Asean PGA Tour.

"To make a living (from golf) is not my goal," Paradorn said, according to a press release from tour organisers. "My goal is to be the first Asian athlete changing from other another sport to play professional golf.

"Scott Draper from Australia, a top-50 player in world at tennis, he turned pro in Australia playing golf - he was the first one.

"I want to do the same and create history for a Thai athlete."

Other top tennis players have tried their hand at the capricious game of golf, including Ivan Lendl, the eight-time Grand Slam winner and current coach of Andy Murray, who has competed in a handful of professional events.

Rafael Nadal and Pete Sampras are also keen players, while Andy Roddick caddied for Zach Johnson at the par-three contest before the 2011 US Masters.

For Paradorn, it's a return to competitive sport after a wrist injury - originally sustained while racing motorbikes - forced him to retire from tennis in 2010, ending a career that took him to ninth in the world.

Paradorn, who has also spent time as a Buddhist monk, has had mixed fortunes in recent years, splitting from his wife, former Miss Universe Natalie Glebova, and announcing a bid to stand for parliament in 2011.

Among his varied portfolio of ventures, he has also opened a restaurant, launched a health supplement billed as a herbal alternative to Viagra, and played a leading role in 2010 Thai movie Bang Rajan 2.

But a chance encounter in 2011 with a childhood friend, who is now a golf professional, introduced him to the game and he now practises daily at clubs in Bangkok and Pattaya.

From Thursday, Paradorn will put his skills to the test at the Singha Pattaya Open, his second outing on the Asean PGA Tour after missing the cut with back-to-back 81s at the Singha Esan Open in February.

But he may be mindful of some cautionary words from Sampras, uttered ruefully after a tough outing on the course.

"In tennis, you can make a couple of mistakes and still win. Not in golf," said the 14-time Grand Slam winner.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.