Thai duo Chapchai Nirat and Thanyakon Khrongpha fired matching six-under-par 65s to share the opening round lead at the inaugural Boonchu Ruangkit Championship on Thursday.
Four other local talents Tirawat Kaewsiribandit, Namchok Tantipokhakul, Varan Israbhakdi and Pawin Ingkhapradit stayed two shots back in third place at the three million baht (approximately US$91,000) event, sanctioned by the Asian Development Tour (ADT).
American Anthony Kang and Korea’s Baek Seuk-hyun registered identical 68s to tie in seventh position with two other local hopefuls, Phiphatphong Naewsuk and Thepbadin Amaranan. Kang and Baek are the only two foreigners inside the top-10 at the Rancho Charnvee Resort and Country Club.
2013 Asian Tour Order of Merit winner Kiradech Aphibarnrat and newly-crowned ADT Order of Merit champion Pavit Tangkamolprasert of Thailand signed for a 69 and 70 respectively while Prom Meesawat carded a 71 for tied-22nd position.
Chapchai, who claimed his fourth Asian Tour title at the Worldwide Holdings Selangor Masters last year, rode on a hot putter to cap a remarkable round highlighted by seven birdies against a lone bogey.
“My putter work well today. The rain in the morning made the greens softer and not too fast. The conditions were still pretty good out there. It got quite windy in the afternoon which made it slightly tougher,” said the 31-year-old Thai, who finished 18th on the Asian Tour Merit Rankings last season.
“I feel great playing in this event. Boonchu is our idol and he is a very successful golfer. With an event like this set up to honour his achievements, it sets a very good example for younger players like us and we should all aim to follow his footsteps,” added Chapchai.
One-time ADT winner Thanyakon spoke highly of Boonchu as a great player whom he had looked up to since he was an amateur.
“It would be great if I can win this event. I will try my best to win. Boonchu has been a great golfer whom we all look up to. I will give him all the support I can,” said the 24-year-old Thai, whose otherwise perfect card was marred by a lone bogey on the 16th hole.
Namchok, who fired seven birdies against three bogeys, was glad to keep his ball in control despite having to play in the rain at the start of the round.
“I played well today even though it rained at the start. I was still able to control the ball. Everything was good for me. You’ve to hit as many greens as possible to play well on this course,” said Namchok, who finished 60th on the Asian Tour rankings to narrowly keep his card for the 2015 season.
The 27-year-old Thai also expressed his appreciation to Boonchu for hosting the event.
“I feel proud for Boonchu and I’m honoured that I get to play in his event. It gives younger players like me more exposure and playing opportunities. It prepares us for bigger events in future too,” added Namchok.
Boonchu, who had the honour of hitting the opening drive when the Asian Tour was launched in 2004 as a players’ body, is the second Asian Tour player after Korea’s K.J. Choi, to host his own tournament.
The 58-year-old Thai was the vice-captain for Team Asia at the inaugural EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM last year and has won a total of five Asian Tour titles in his career. He is also a five-time winner on the European Senior Tour.
Since it was inaugurated in 2010, the ADT has grown from five events in the first year to a record 21 tournaments in 2014. The ADT has announced a provisional 2015 schedule of a minimum 17 tournaments with several more to be announced in due course.
For more information on the ADT, please visit www.asiandevelopmenttour.com