Thai hotshot Pannakorn Uthaipas won the prestigious Asian Development Tour (ADT) crown after closing with a three-under-par 68 to finish in tied-31st place at the season-ending Boonchu Ruangkit Championship on Sunday.

Pannakorn, who held the Order of Merit lead heading into the season-finale, sealed the deal after his closest competitors Masaru Takahashi of Japan missed the halfway cut and American John Catlin finished outside top-three at the Rancho Charnvee Resort and Country Club.

Pannakorn had a year to remember in 2017 where he notched one victory and four top-10s to cap a season’s haul of US$55,859 on the region’s secondary circuit, which was launched in 2010 as a gateway to the Asian Tour. The 27-year-old Pannakorn became the second Thai, following Pavit Tangkamolprasert in 2014, to win the accolade.

Pannakorn, who claimed his breakthrough win at the Taifong Open in Chinese Taipei earlier in June, had regained his lead on the money list following a second runner-up finish at the Thongchai Jaidee Foundation earlier this month.

“I was second on the Order of Merit before the Thongchai Jaidee Foundation. But I finished well there to take over the lead and widen the gap coming into this week. I know Masaru is a good player and he was really trying his best this week.

“I told myself to just focus on my game. I didn’t putt well this week but I am still happy with how I finished. I felt more comfortable after making the cut. This is my best career season so far. I have been playing well even before I won in Chinese Taipei,” said Pannakorn.

Pannakorn credited a swing change at the start of the season, as well as a strong mental game, for winning the ADT Order of Merit.

“I changed my swing at the start of the year. I think my mental game is stronger now. I told myself to keep things simple and not overthink on the course.

“I used to stay with Pavit when he plays on the ADT. Looks like I can stay with Pavit again when we both play on the Asian Tour next year! Playing on the ADT has given me a lot of experiences and I was able to hone my skills,” Pannakorn added.

Japanese Masaru Takahashi, American John Catlin, Chinese Taipei’s Wang Wei-lun and Nattawat Suvajanakorn of Thailand, who finished second, third, fourth and fifth respectively on the Order of Merit, also earned playing rights on the region’s premier Tour for 2018.

Catlin was delighted to play his way back onto the Asian Tour, after missing out on his Tour card at the Qualifying School earlier this season.

“Securing the Asian Tour card was my goal since the day I missed out on the card at the Qualifying School. I played on the Asian Tour in 2015 and 2016 but I didn’t think I had the game to play well, be it mentally or physically,” said the 27-year-old Catlin.

“I worked on my game on both aspects this year and I felt like I have improved a lot. I just treat this week like any other tournament. Nothing changes. I told myself to play one shot at a time.

“Losing in the play-off in Bali kind of spurred me on heading towards the end of the season. Playing on the ADT has definitely helped my game. It’s going to be a lot of experiences to build on when I play on the Asian Tour next year,” added Catlin, who has capped one win and six top-10s this season to finish in third place with total earnings of US$46,374.

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