Thailand’s Itthipat Buranatanyarat has never fallen out of the lead on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) Order of Merit since securing his third victory at the season-opening Boonchu Ruangkit Championship on home soil in January.

The 26-year-old Thai earned a total of US$27,266 in six starts on the ADT this season, thanks to a win and two top-10 finishes. He has yet to miss a single cut this season on the region’s secondary circuit, which was launched as a gateway to the Asian Tour in 2010.

Itthipat had secured his maiden ADT title in the Philippines in 2015 before winning the season-opener in Singapore in 2016. He capped his career-best season yet on the ADT by finishing fourth on the 2016 Order of Merit to secure his Asian Tour card for 2017.

After failing to keep his Asian Tour card for 2018, Itthipat returned to hone his skills on the ADT and his efforts were finally paid off when he made it into the winner’s circle again at the start of the season. Now, he is in the running to become the third Thai player, following Pavit Tangkamolprasert (2014) and Pannakorn Uthaipas (2017), to lift the ADT Order of Merit crown.

Itthipat, who earned his 2019 Asian Tour card after finishing third at the Qualifying School last December, pointed to a combination of mental and technical changes he made that helped put his game back on track.

“The biggest change I made for this year was fixing my swing and concentrating on my mental game,” said the amiable Thai.

“I am excited to be at the top of the Merit rankings right now, but I always remind myself that there are many other players who are trying to compete for that position. I will have to keep playing well and make it harder for them to catch up with me,” added Itthipat.

Japan’s Naoki Sekito, playing in his second season on the ADT, trails Itthipat by a mere US$2,833 in second place on the money list.

The 21-year-old Sekito has displayed impressive form to claim his first ADT win at the PGM ADT Penang Championship and cap two runner-up finishes in five starts this season.

Qualifying School graduate Kosuke Hamamoto of Thailand sits in third place with earnings of US$18,827 while Kazuki Higa of Japan and Thailand’s Pannakorn Uthaipas, both winners again on Tour this season, take fourth and fifth positions respectively.

Earlier in February, Thailand’s Sadom Kaewkanjana savoured his first professional victory at the Thongchai Jaidee Foundation 2019. The young Thai became the record fastest Qualifying School graduate to win on the Asian Tour when he won in his first start at the Bangabandhu Cup Golf Open in April.

Sadom has since been removed from the ADT Merit rankings as he has earned an exemption on the Asian Tour till the end of the 2020 season. 

The ADT also celebrated its first winner from Korea earlier this month when newcomer Seung Park won in only his second start on the ADT at the OB Golf Invitational in Indonesia.

Reigning ADT number one, Miguel Carballo of Argentina, emerged triumphant at the Singha Laguna Phuket Open to clinch his second title two weeks ago. It was the second time he won in a play-off and he would move to seventh place on the Merit rankings.

ADT hopefuls will continue their chase for the seven Asian Tour cards on offer when the Merit race resumes at the PGM CCM & CCM Duopharma ADT Championship next month.

The tournament, which will mark the ninth leg of the ADT schedule this season, will take place at the Tiara Melaka Golf and Country Club in Malaysia from June 26 to 29.

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