ADT: Phiphatphong wins Boonchu Ruangkit Championship

Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, January 11: Local talent Phiphatphong Naewsuk capped a memorable week by firing a six-under-par 65 to claim his maiden professional win at the inaugural Boonchu Ruangkit Championship on Sunday.

Phiphatphong, who held the lead after the second round, stayed consistent as he put out an assured performance at the Rancho Charnvee Resort and Country Club to seal victory with a winning total of 18-under-par 266.

Namchok Tantipokhakul returned with the day’s lowest score of 63 but was unable to pip compatriot Phiphatphong to the title as he settled one shot back in second place at the three million Baht (approximately US$91,000) event, which is sanctioned by the Asian Development Tour (ADT).

Korea’s Baek Seuk-hyun signed off with his best effort of 65 to take third place on his own while local stalwarts Thaworn Wiratchant, Chawalit Plaphol and Chapchai Nirat shared fourth on matching 271s after posting rounds of 66, 67 and 68 respectively.

Phiphatphong, who rode on a two-shot advantage heading into the final round, held his nerve in his last 18 holes to land his first victory since joining the play-for-pay ranks in 2010.

“I’m so proud to secure my first professional win today. To win it in Boonchu’s event is even more meaningful because he is a mentor of mine. I was really nervous all day but I try to focus hole by hole, shot by shot,” said the 25-year-old Thai, who marked his card with seven birdies against a lone bogey.

“Namchok played very well and I knew I had to make the score to win. I missed a short putt and dropped a shot on the 17th but I didn’t let that affect my closing hole. I would like to thank Boonchu and all sponsors for this event. My playing partners, Namchok and Chapchai, gave me a lot of moral support on the course too and I’m very thankful,” added Phiphatphong.

Phiphatphong, a double gold medalist at the 2007 Southeast Asian Games, will take home the winner’s prize purse of US$13,217 and receive six Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points courtesy of his victory.

Despite missing out on the title, Namchok believes his good results this week is a sign of better things to come as he put himself in good shape heading into the 2015 Asian Tour season.

“This is my best round of the week. My shots were perfect although my putting was average. I was aiming for a 66 today but I did better than that which is great. Phiphatphong played really well this week and he deserved the win,” said Namchok, who finished 60th on the Asian Tour Order of Merit to narrowly retain his card for the 2015 season.

“This is a good start to the year and I am looking forward to play on the Asian Tour this season. This will be a good practice for me before starting the season proper,” added the 27-year-old Thai.

Boonchu, a five-time winner on the Asian Tour and the European Senior Tour, expressed his delight following the successful staging of the Boonchu Ruangkit Championship, which was named after the Thai veteran to honour his achievements in the game.

“It was a very successful tournament. I would like to thank all sponsors who have come together to support this tournament in a way or another. I’m also happy to see a young player like Phiphatphong winning this event. He definitely has the potential to become one of the top players in Thailand in future,” said the 58-year-old Thai.

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.

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.

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Leading final round scores:

266 – Phiphatphong NAEWSUK (THA) 68-65-68-65

267 – Namchok TANTIPOKHAKUL (THA) 67-71-66-63

269 – BAEK Seuk-hyun (KOR) 68-68-68-65

271 – Thaworn WIRATCHANT (THA) 74-61-70-66, Chawalit PLAPHOL (THA) 71-64-69-67, Chapchai NIRAT (THA) 65-70-68-68

274 – Panuphol PITTAYARAT (THA) 69-71-67-67

276 – Rattanon WANNASRICHAN (THA) 70-72-68-66, Thanyakon KHRONGPHA (THA) 65-71-73-67, Apisit NIMNUAL (THA) 71-70-68-67, Prom MEESAWAT (THA) 71-67-70-68

About the Asian Development Tour

The Asian Development Tour was launched in 2010 with the aim of creating a career pathway for professional golfers in Asia. Sanctioned by the Asian Tour, the Asian Development Tour will ultimately create a new playing platform for emerging stars from across Asia and around the world. Through the Asian Tour Qualifying School, players will qualify for the Asian Development Tour and enjoy the opportunity to hone their games and talent through a secondary circuit in Asia. Designed in the same structure as the Tour in America and European Challenge Tour, the Asian Development Tour is a stepping stone to the Asian Tour and the exciting world of international golf. The Asian Development Tour has been structured to ensure the best opportunities for its members. The leading five players on the Asian Development Tour will earn coveted Asian Tour cards for the following season, ensuring a proper career pathway for aspiring professionals. All ADT events receive Official World Golf Ranking points.