Playing on a sponsor’s invitation, the Singaporean arrived with a spring in his step and promptly delivered by marking his card flawlessly with five birdies at the Nilai Springs Golf and Country Club.
Thailand’s Chanat Sakulpolphaisan trailed the Singaporean by one shot after he returned with a 67 to share second place with local hopeful Mohd Iylia Jamil at the RM200,000 (approx. US$50,000) ADT event, which is also the third last event on the region’s secondary circuit.
England’s Christopher Cannon together with Thailand’s Wisut Artjanawat, Panuwat Muenlek and New Zealand’s Sean Riordan are tied for fourth on matching 68s.
Poh, who joined the play-for-play ranks in June shortly after winning the team and individual silver medals at the South East Asian Games, enjoyed a significant measure of success by lifting his first professional title at a local event in Shenzhen, China earlier this month.
After setting the early pace, the Singaporean is hoping for another shot at glory in his first attempt at the Nilai Springs Golf and Country Club.
“Although this is the first time I’m playing here, I really like the course layout and it suits my eye.
“I don’t usually start off well, playing only better towards the later rounds. But this time, it’s a good start and I’m hoping to capitalize on it,” said Poh.
Highly regarded as one of Singapore’s most successful amateurs, the 23-year-old started off strongly with birdies in his opening two holes.
He picked up another gain on the par-four nine before cruising home with another two birdies on 13 and 15.
“I hit it really well today and avoided making any bogeys. That was the plus point. I’ll continue to keep it up tomorrow,” said Poh, whose other career highlights included representing Singapore at the Asian Games in 2010 and 2014 and being crowned Singapore National Amateur Champion in 2010 and 2014.
Like Poh, Chanat is also hoping to ride on his early good form.
The Thai’s best result on the ADT came in Malacca a fortnight ago where he finished tied for sixth and believes he can do better if he continues to stay patient.
“It’s a good start and I’ve to start thinking positively that I can do it. I just need to relax, stay patient and play my own game,” said Chanat.
The PGM Nilai Springs Championship will be one of the remaining three events left on the ADT season for players to vie for a place in the top-five so as to secure their playing rights on the Asian Tour in 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.
The winner of the PGM Nilai Springs Championship will take home US$8,371 and receive six Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points.
For more information on the ADT, please visit www.asiandevelopmenttour.com
Leading first round scores
66- Johnson POH (SIN)
67- Chanat SAKULPOLPHAISAN (THA), Mohd Iylia JAMIL (MAS)
68- Wisut ARTJANAWAT (THA), Christopher CANNON (ENG), Panuwat MUENLEK (THA), Sean RIORDAN (NZL)
69- Malcolm KOKOCINSKI (SWE), Casey O’TOOLE (USA), Kenneth DE SILVA (MAS), HSIEH Chi-hsien (TWN), Jordan SHERRATT (AUS), Hirotaro NAITO (JPN)
70- LOW Khai Jei (MAS)-Am, Janne KASKE (FIN), Erwan VIEILLEDENT (FRA), Itthipat BURANATANYARAT (THA), Natthapong NIYOMCHON (THA), Nitithorn THIPPONG (THA), GOH Kun Yang (SIN), Nakarintra RATANAKUL (THA), Atthaphon SRIBOONKAEW (THA)