Local prospect Zen Dharmaratne took over the reins from compatriot and overnight leader Danny Chia after carding a four-under-par 68 to lead at the halfway stage of the PGM Sabah Championship on Thursday.
The 24-year-old Malaysian, who opened his campaign with a 70, fired five birdies against a lone bogey to grab a slender one-shot lead over Chia on six-under-par 138 total at the Sabah Golf and Country Club.
Chia battled to a 72 to settle for second place with reigning Order of Merit champion Pavit Tangkamolprasert of Thailand, who returned with a 69, in the RM200,000 (approximately US$55,400) Asian Development Tour (ADT) event, which is the 10th leg of the schedule this season.
A total of six players including Malaysia’s Nicholas Fung (67), Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai (72) and Ye Jian-feng (69) of China, shared fourth place on 140s while Order of Merit leader Hsieh Chi-hsien of Chinese Taipei signed for a disappointing 77 to slipped from tied-third to tied-38th position.
Dharmaratne, who is chasing for a first professional win, got off to a strong start, sinking three consecutive birdies from the first hole before dropping a shot on the seventh. He recovered strongly by picking up two more birdies on the 12th and 13th holes on his way home.
“I had a great start to the round. I kept to my routine and hung in there. I was just focused on hitting the greens and fairways out there and I am glad I was able to keep myself in it,” said Dharmaratne, who joined the play-for-pay ranks in 2013.
“I played with no expectations and I didn’t think about the scores. I just played shot by shot. I like this golf course. I always feel good coming here. It’s a golf course that suits my game a lot,” added the young Malaysian, who has not missed a single cut in all three attempts at the PGM Sabah Championship held at the Sabah Golf and Country Club.
Pavit, who enjoyed a third-place finish last year, is relishing his prospects of securing a record fifth ADT title as he heads into the weekend rounds in a favourable position on the leaderboard.
The four-time ADT winner currently shares the record of having the most number of victories on the region’s burgeoning Tour with Chinese Taipei’s Chan Shih-chang.
“I managed to get up and down in a couple of holes today which gave me a bit of confidence in my game. The greens are very firm and it’s difficult to control the ball. I’ve played well here last year but the conditions are really different now. It was rainy last year but this week, it’s dry and windy,” said the 26-year-old Pavit.
“This is only my third ADT event this year and I feel like it’s getting a lot tougher out here compared to how it was last year. It’s so much more competitive now. I’ve been playing good so far this season so hopefully I can stay consistent in game and get my first win of the season soon,” added Pavit, who mixed his card with four birdies against one bogey.
A total of 50 players made the halfway cut at the PGM Sabah Championship which was set at four-over-par 148.
Since it was inaugurated as a gateway to the Asian Tour in 2010, the ADT has grown from five events in the first year to a record 21 tournaments in both 2014 and 2015.
The ADT will continue to reward the top-five finishers on the Order of Merit at the end of this season with Asian Tour cards for 2016.
With the Olympic Games looming in 2016 where golf will be reintroduced as a medal sport, players in the region could earn their spots in Rio de Janeiro by earning Official World Golf Ranking points through the Asian Tour and ADT.
For more information on the ADT, please visit www.
Leading second round scores
138 – Zen DHARMARATNE (MAS) 70-68
139 – Pavit TANGKAMOLPRASERT (THA) 70-69, Danny CHIA (MAS) 67-72
140 – Nicholas FUNG (MAS) 73-67, Donlaphatchai NIYOMCHON (THA) 72-68, William SJAICHUDIN (INA) 74-66, YE Jian-feng (CHN) 71-69, Phachara KHONGWATMAI (THA) 68-72, Sutijet KOORATANAPISAN (THA) 70-70
141 – Gyeongjun LEE (KOR) 72-69, Danthai BOONMA (THA) 72-69, KOH Deng Shan (SIN) 70-71
142 – Ratchapol JANTAVARA (THA) 71-71, Nirun SAE-UENG (THA) 73-69
143 – Nils FLOREN (SWE) 72-71, Lindsay RENOLDS (CAN) 70-73, Mitchell SLORACH (SIN) 71-72