Local talent Phiphatphong Naewsuk snatched a two-shot halfway lead at the inaugural Boonchu Ruangkit Championship following a fine six-under-par 65 on Friday.
Starting the round three shots back, the young Thai fired one eagle and five birdies against a lone bogey for a nine-under-par 133 total at the three million baht (approximately US$91,000) event, sanctioned by the Asian Development Tour (ADT).
The limelight was, however, stolen by Thai maestro Thaworn Wiratchant, who returned with a career-best 10-under-par 61 to charge into second place with countrymen Chapchai Nirat and Chawalit Plaphol on 135 at the Rancho Charnvee Resort and Country Club.
Thanyakon Khrongpha, who held a share of the opening round lead with Chapchai, slipped to fifth place alongside Korea’s Baek Seuk-hyun on 136 while Tirawat Kaewsiribandit, also of Thailand, registered a 70 to stay four shots off the pace at the Boonchu Ruangkit Championship, held in honour of the Thai veteran’s achievements in the game.
Home favourite Prom Meesawat signed for a 67 to tie in eighth position on 138 while 2013 Asian Tour Order of Merit winner Kiradech Aphibarnrat and newly-crowned ADT Order of Merit champion Pavit Tangkamolprasert stayed a further two shots back in tied-18th following rounds of 71 and 70 respectively.
Phiphatphong, who started from the first hole, sank three birdies to turn in 32 before adding two more birdies, one bogey and an eagle on the 14th hole, which he had hit it in from about 167 yards with an eighth-iron, on his way home.
“Everything went well for me, except for the bogey on the 11th hole where I had made a double bogey in the opening round. The tee shot was difficult as it’s against the wind but I am very pleased to eagle the same hole as I did yesterday,” said Phiphatphong, a double gold medalist at the 2007 Southeast Asian Games.
“The greens will be the key to score on this course. The rain made the greens softer and made the approach shots tougher. It would mean a lot if I can win this tournament. I used to be from Boonchu’s golf academy – Singha Pattana and he had always been a player whom I looked up to. Hopefully I can continue to play well tomorrow,” added the 25-year-old Thai.
Thaworn, who claimed an unprecedented 18th Asian Tour title on home soil two months ago, was thrilled to cap his best round ever in his 27 years of illustrious career.
“I made some mistakes but was able to recover well. I guess I was pretty lucky too. The turning point came at the par three 13th where I managed to chip in from 30 yards after hitting my tee shot to the jungle on the left. My putting and chipping worked perfectly today,” said the 48-year-old Thai, who returned with a flawless round highlighted by 10 birdies. He would have broken the course record if not for the preferred lies in play.
The halfway cut was set at 4-under-par 146 with 61 players from the top-55 and ties advancing into the final two rounds.
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
Leading second round scores:
133 – Phiphatphong NAEWSUK (THA) 68-65
135 – Chawalit PLAPHOL (THA) 71-64, Chapchai NIRAT (THA) 65-70, Thaworn WIRATCHANT (THA) 74-61
136 – Thanyakon KHRONGPHA (THA) 65-71, BAEK Seuk-hyun (KOR) 68-68
137 – Tirawat KAEWSIRIBANDIT (THA) 67-70
138 – Suppakorn UTHAIPAT (THA) 71-67, Poosit SUPUPRAMAI (THA) 69-69, Namchok TANTIPOKHAKUL (THA) 67-71, Prom MEESAWAT (THA) 71-67
139 – Prayad MARKSAENG (THA) 71-68
140 – Kiradech APHIBARNRAT (THA) 69-71, Pavit TANGKAMOLPRSERT (THA) 70-70