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Japan's Masanori Kobayashi is planning to follow in the footsteps of countryman Tetsuji Hiratsuka and Daisuke Maruyama after fulfilling his dream of winning on the Asian Tour in his rookie season. Kobayashi claimed his breakthrough triumph at the Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open on home soil on Sunday, closing with a spectacular nine-under-par 62 which pushed him up to third place on the Asian Tour's Order of Merit with US$400,289.
The victory was sweet as it came nine months after earning his card from the Asian Tour's Qualifying School in Thailand. He now joins Korean-American David Lipsky as the other graduate who have won this season.
"My dream was always to win on the Asian Tour and in Japan and I've enjoyed the best of both Tours. This is indeed a very happy occasion in my career," said Kobayashi, who now has a two-year exemption as a tournament winner.
"This win does so much for me because I get to play in all the events on the Asian Tour now. There are many big events coming up, so this win puts me in good position," he added.
The Asian Tour's Qualifying School has been a springboard to success for many of the region's established stars including the likes of Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee and Korea's Noh Seung-yul.
The Qualifying School will be played in Hua Hin, Thailand next January.
Stage One, comprising a 72-hole tournament, will be divided into two sections and will be held from January 9-12 and January 16-19 while the all-important Final Stage, which offers the top-40 and ties with playing rights for 2013, will be held from January 23-26.
Players who compete in Qualifying School will also earn a playing category in the burgeoning Asian Development Tour, which will be afforded Official World Golf Ranking points from 2013 onwards.
Like his compatriots who have inspired him to compete on the Asian Tour, Kobayashi will now enjoy the sights and sounds of Asia while chasing for more glory across the region. Hiratsuka has won four times since joining the Asian Tour from Qualifying School in 2010 while Maruyama is a two-time winner, having won the Q-school in 2009.
"Hiratsuka and Maruyama have enjoyed success on the Asian Tour so I decided to follow in their footsteps. They love playing in different countries and they have improved tremendously in their games," said Kobayashi.
"I like to play in other countries as you will see that I played in Myanmar, Indonesia, Philippines and Cambodia earlier this season," added the Japanese, who jumped up by 70 rungs to his present Merit ranking.
Australia's Marcus Fraser continues to lead the Merit race after collecting US$23,383 courtesy of his 13th place finish in Japan over the weekend.
While Fraser stretched his lead over second-placed Jbe Kruger of South Africa by US$18,506, he knows that his dream of becoming the first Australian to win the prestigious Order of Merit crown will only be decided in the run-up to the year-end events.
"There's no point leading the Order of Merit now. You want to make sure you are leading on it at the end of the year. At the moment, it doesn't really count for anything but hopefully I can keep playing well and put a few more dollars on that Order of Merit," said Fraser.
The Asian Tour returns to Chinese Taipei for the staging of the US$600,000 Mercuries Taiwan Masters this week.
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