Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, December 21: Young Thai talent Phachara Khongwatmai will be looking to repeat last year’s magic when he tees off for the season-ending Boonchu Ruangkit Championship on Thursday.
The 17-year-old Thai sensationally claimed the fifth and last Asian Tour card on offer when he secured his second Asian Development Tour (ADT) title at the picturesque Rancho Charvee Resorts and Country Club 12 months ago.
Having already retained his Asian Tour card for 2017 after finishing 14th on the Order of Merit, Phachara will return to his winning ground with a lighter heart as he relishes the opportunity to play alongside Thai star Thongchai Jaidee again in the season finale.
“I remembered playing with Thongchai in the last two rounds last year. I needed to win the tournament last year as I was chasing for an Asian Tour card. I guess I was lucky to finish just one shot ahead of Thongchai and Chinnarat (Phadungsil),” said Phachara.
“I have learnt so much from playing with Thongchai last year. I am playing with him again for the first two rounds this week so I am really looking forward to it. It has been a solid season. I am happy with my results. I just want to enjoy myself this week,” Phachara added.
Thongchai, currently ranked 52nd in the world, needs to go one better in the 3,500,000 Baht (approx. US$100,114) ADT event to break into top-50 by the end of 2016 and qualify for the Masters Tournament next year.
The 47-year-old Thai, however, hopes to take things in his stride and just do his best in the tournament hosted by fellow Thai great Boonchu Ruangkit, a player whom he highly regards.
“I will play my best this week and not think so much about winning. If I can play well, everything will take care of itself. I feel very happy coming back here to play in Boonchu’s event,” said the three-time Asian Tour Order of Merit champion.
“It’s like a family gathering, seeing all the Thai players get together at this time of the year. This is my second time here. I just want to have fun out there and show my support to Boonchu. I finished well last year so hopefully I can play well again,” added Thongchai.
Boonchu, who had the honour of hitting the opening drive when the Asian Tour was launched in 2004 as a players’ body, was proud to host his own ADT tournament for the third time in two years.
“I love to see young players proving themselves when they compete against a strong field. It’s very nice to see all the top players in Thailand coming together too. We have got a very strong field this week. I would like to thank Thongchai for coming to play as he can share his experiences with the younger players from the ADT and the local Tour.
“The tournament has enjoyed great successes in the last two years so I hope it will continue to grow. I would also like to thank the sponsors and all other parties involved in putting the tournament together,” said the 60-year-old Boonchu, who has won five Asian Tour titles and is also a five-time winner on the European Senior Tour.
Other notable players in the field include Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Chapchai Nirat, Prom Meesawat, Prayad Marksaeng, Thaworn Wiratchant and Pavit Tangkamolprasert, all winners on the premier Asian Tour.
With three players inside top-six of the current Asian Development Tour (ADT) Order of Merit already secured their cards through the Asian Tour this season, the next highest ranked three players will be promoted onto the region’s premier Tour.
American Johannes Veerman, current Merit leader, managed to finish inside top-62 on the 2016 Asian Tour Order of Merit while Thailand’s Pavit Tangkamolprasert and Poom Saksansin, ranked third and sixth on the ADT money list, have both won on the Asian Tour this season.
American John Michael O’Toole, placed eighth on the Merit rankings with a season’s haul of US$26,347, is currently in position to secure the fifth and last 2017 Asian Tour card on offer to leading players on the ADT, which was launched as a gateway to the Asian Tour in 2010.
The Boonchu Ruangkit Championship is the final event of the 2016 ADT schedule. A total of nine Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points will be awarded to the winner, given the strength of field.
For more information on the ADT, please visit www.asiandevelopmenttour.com
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.