Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia, January 9: Thailand’s Namchok Tantipokhakul displayed nerves of steel to claim an emotional victory at the Warisan Harta Sabah Masters on Saturday.
The 28-year-old Chonburi native nursed his overnight advantage to close with a second successive even-par 71 for his first ever victory on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) at the Sutera Harbour Golf & Country Club.
Namchok totalled seven-under-par 277 to finish two strokes clear of American Casey O’Toole, who made a final round charge with a solid three-under 68.
Thai youngster Nirun Sae-ueng dropped costly shots in the closing stages to return with a poor 74, settling for joint third alongside fellow Thai Piya Swangarunporn (71) on 282.
Kemarol Baharin rounded off his campaign as the top-placed local in the US$100,000 tournament jointly sanctioned by the ADT and the ASEAN PGA, finishing sole seventh on one-over 285.
But the spotlight was clearly on Namchok, whose victory not only ended a two-year title drought but propelled him to second on the ASEAN PGA Order of Merit race, securing him a start at the Asian Tour’s SMBC Singapore Open at the end of the month.
“I’m really relieved. It has been a really long time since I picked up a win and I felt a little nervous at the start of the round. My ball-striking was really good today but my putting let me down and I left a lot of birdies out there.
“I didn’t think even-par would be enough to win because my playing partners (O’Toole and Nirun) gave me a good fight but I stayed solid under pressure to lift the title,” said Namchok, who was flawless except for a bogey on 14th.
He noted that his sharp short game was crucial to his victory, especially when he converted a delightful chip-in to save par at the 15th.
“My short game really came through this week. On the 15th, I knew I needed to pull off something really special to preserve my two-shot cushion after dropping the bogey on the previous hole. I managed to get clean contact with the ball and as it sank into the hole, I knew the win was mine to claim.
“I lost my card on the Japan Golf Tour last year and this win is important because it is a real morale-booster. Getting into the SMBC Singapore Open and playing well there will hopefully open more doors for me in 2016,” added Namchok.
Reigning ADT money list winner O’Toole was delighted with his overall performance despite failing to take advantage of a brilliant start.
Five off the lead at the start of the day, he notched four birdies on the front nine to move within two shots of Namchok at the turn.
But back-to-back bogeys on the 11th and 12th derailed O’Toole’s title hopes with his only other gain on the 16th proving a late consolation.
“I’m happy with my round because I got off to the exact start I needed to if I was going to have chance. Right after the turn, I conceded two really bad bogeys and that made it really hard for me.
“I knew that if I threw in a couple of birdies, I could get back in it but credit to Namchok, his short game was so good that even when he missed a shot, he chipped the next one in,” said the Thailand-based O’Toole.
Leading Round 4 results:
277 – Namchok Tantipokhakul (THA) 65-70-71-71
279 – Casey O’Toole (USA) 70-71-70-68
282 – Piya Swangarunporn (THA) 71-69-71-71, Nirun Sae-ueng (THA) 68-70-70-74
283 – Chanat Sakulpolphaisan (THA) 75-71-68-69
284 – Antonio Lascuna Jr (PHI) 71-74-69-70
285 – Kemarol Baharin 71-69-71-74
286 – Phachara Khongwatmai (THA) 71-72-72-71
287 – Sutijet Kooratanapisan (THA) 76-72-72-67, Jay Bayron (PHI) 71-73-72-71
288 – Cylde Mondilla (PHI) 78-71-69-70, Lam Yu Shuen 77-65-74-72, David Gleeson (AUS) 73-75-74-66, Mitchell Slorach (SIN) 70-72-74-72, Rufino Bayron (PHI) 74-70-70-74
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 Web.com 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.