Local teen titan Phachara Khongwatmai hogged the limelight after carding a seven-under-par 64 to tie for lead with six other players following the opening round of the Boonchu Ruangkit Championship on Thursday.
The 16-year-old, who recently earned a spot in The Open next year, was matched by compatriots Pavit Tangkamolprasert, Kwanchai Tannin, Wisut Artjanawat, Varan Israbhakdi, Tawit Polthai and Sweden’s Malcolm Kokocinski at the Rancho Charnvee Resort and Country Club.
Nine other players, including Asian Tour winners Prom Meesawat and Danthai Boonma of Thailand, trail by one shot in tied-eighth position at the 3,000,000 Baht (approx. US$83,000) Asian Development Tour (ADT) event.
American Casey O’Toole (69) and Chinese Taipei’s Hsieh Chi-hsien (68), placed first and second on the current ADT Order of Merit, took a share of tied-58th and tied-38th positions respectively in what is the final stop of the ADT season in 2015.
Local stars Thongchai Jaidee, Prayad Marksaeng and Kiradech Aphibarnrat signed for rounds of 66, 67 and 70 respectively in the second event hosted by Thai veteran Boonchu Ruangkit this season.
Phachara, whose name is ‘Diamond’ in Thai, was overjoyed to play alongside leading Thai star Thongchai, who is currently ranked 29th on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR).
“I really enjoyed my game today. It’s my first time playing with Thongchai. I was really excited! We chatted quite a bit and it made today’s game not so serious which is good. It’s a great experience. I look forward to playing with him again tomorrow,” said Phachara, who marked his card with nine birdies against two bogeys.
“I didn’t miss any fairways today. I only had two bad holes where my putts failed to drop. Overall, I played well. The course is in a great condition,” added Phachara, who had secured a spot in The Open 2016 after finishing sixth at the Thailand Golf Championship a fortnight ago.
Reigning ADT Order of Merit winner Pavit took advantage of his booming drives to cap a bogey-free round highlighted by five birdies and an eagle on 12th where he chipped in from 25 yards.
“I drove the ball good today and my iron-shots were solid. I am happy with how I played today. I missed only two greens. I gave myself a lot of chances for birdies. I missed a four-footer for birdie on 16 to seize the outright lead but it’s alright,” said the 26-year-old Thai.
Kwanchai, who played in the morning, was also delighted to return with a blemish-free card where he nailed seven birdies, including four in a row from 11th hole.
“My game is on track today. Both my driver and putter are working very well. I sank a one-footer birdie putt on 11th and that got my game going. I hope to continue my good form tomorrow,” said the 29-year-old Thai.
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 OWGR points through the Asian Tour and ADT.
The ADT is celebrating its sixth season where it has grown immensely from five events in the first year in 2010 to a record 28 tournaments in 2015.
For more information on the ADT, please visit www.asiandevelopmenttour.com
Leading first round scores
64 – Kwanchai TANNIN (THA), Varan ISRABHAKDI (THA), Tawit POLTHAI (THA), Pavit TANGKAMOLPRASERT (THA), Phachara KHONGWATMAI (THA), Wisut ARTJANAWAT (THA), Malcolm KOKOCINSKI (SWE)
65 – Nattapong PUTTA (THA), Prom MEESAWAT (THA), Gyeongjun LEE (KOR), Chawalit PLAPHOL (THA), Danthai BOONMA (THA), Itthipat BURANATANYARAT (THA), Thammanoon SRIROJ (THA), Kitdanai SUPHASIRISES (THA), Thummanoon KOONMARK (THA)
66 – Jaturon DUANGPHAICHOOM (A) (THA), Josh SALAH (USA), Natthapong NIYOMCHON (THA) , Jordan SHERRATT (AUS), Thongchai JAIDEE (THA), Rattanon WANNASRICHAN (THA), Chinnarat PHADUNGSIL (THA), Panuwat MUENLEK (THA), Atthaphon SRIBOONKAEW (THA), Pijit PETCHKASEM (THA)
67 – Prayad MARKSAENG (THA)
68 – HSIEH Chi-hsien (TPE)
69 – Casey O’TOOLE (USA)
70 – Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA)