Thai rising star Phachara Khongwatmai hopes to follow in the footsteps of fellow youngster Rattanon Wannasrichan by becoming an Asian Tour winner in the US$500,000 Queen’s Cup next week.

The 18-year-old Phachara has enjoyed a standout season thus far, with two runner-up finishes in India and Australia pushing him up to third place on the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit.

A maiden victory on the region’s premier golf circuit is the immediate goal for the ultra-talented teenager, especially after seeing Rattanon, 21, claim a popular home win at the Thailand Open last month.

“I know that I will go there with the intention to play my best golf. I would like to win the tournament but I have to play best. Other players may play well, so if I don’t pay attention, I will not be able to contend. This tournament is important for all the Thai players. We would like to win any Royal trophy and it will be our honour,” said Phachara.

With a Thai nickname which translates to “diamond”, Phachara has certainly sparkled this season with his dashing and aggressive style of play. He finished tied second at the season-opening SMBC Singapore Open which earned him a prized spot in The Open at Royal Birkdale in July and he was also runner-up at the inaugural ISPS HANDA World Super 6 in Perth.

Although he has missed the cut twice in three appearances at the Queen’s Cup at Santiburi Samui Country Club, Phachara believes he now has more experience to tackle the ultra-demanding course. Two wins on the secondary Asian Development Tour has also served as a confidence booster for the exciting Thai prospect.

“I like the golf course. I think I can understand the course and play well there. I know I need to adjust my game when I’m playing on this course. I will work on my putting to try and give myself a chance to win.

“I will work hard to win an Asian Tour tournament this year. But I won’t force myself. I know if I work hard and work the correct way, I will be able to win. If not, I will have next year and the year after. I have a lot of time,” he said.

While Phachara is seeking a maiden Asian Tour victory, veteran countryman Prayad Marksaeng, a winner of 10 Asian Tour titles, is not discounting his chances of playing his way into the record books by bagging a third Queen’s Cup title. He won in Samui in 2013 and 2015.

“I’m looking forward to winning my third title. If my putting is on track, I will try my best to win again. This trophy is important to all of us,” said Prayad.

The smooth swinger won the Singapore Open in January eight days before his 51st birthday and last weekend, he won on the Japan Seniors Tour again.

“I love playing at Santiburi Samui. It fits my game. I am always confident playing there. My physical condition is now good and my mental aspect is also perfect. I enjoy playing golf and there is no stress. I don’t see myself as a senior golfer,” said Prayad.

The home hero is tipping Phachara to be amongst the leading contenders in what is the 10th leg of the Asian Tour’s 2017 season. “Phachara is stronger now … he will have a chance to win this year,” he said.

Backed by Bangkok Airways and Sports Authority of Thailand, the Queen’s Cup will be offering its highest ever prize fund as it celebrates its ninth edition from June 15 to 18 2017.

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