Rayong, Thailand, January 14: Korea’s Seungtaek Lee outclassed the field by closing with a second straight four-under-par 67 to claim a one-shot victory at the Asian Tour Qualifying School Final Stage presented by Sports Authority of Thailand on Sunday.
The 22-year-old Lee, playing his first attempt at the Asian Tour Qualifying School, fired three birdies in his closing four holes to top the 243-man field with a five-day total of 14-under-par 341 at the Rayong Green Valley Country Club.
Lee is among the 44 players, including former winners Australian David Gleeson, India’s Himmat Rai, Thailand’s Thammanoon Sriroj and Udorn Duangdecha, who secured their Tour cards for the new season after finishing inside top-35 and ties following the 90-hole battle.
Overnight co-leader Sorachut Hansapiban of Thailand stumbled with a bogey on the last to sign for a 68 and finish second on his own. The 27-year-old Thai took solace with his runner-up finish as he finally earned his Tour card after missing out in his last two consecutive attempts.
American Kurt Kitayama, who turns 25 today, gave himself the perfect birthday present when he closed with a 66 to finish three shots back in third place alongside Thailand’s Jakraphan Premsirigorn (66), Australian duo Travis Smyth (68) and Steven Jeffress (70).
The 2018 Asian Tour Qualifying School Final stage saw 243 hopefuls from over 30 countries vying for their playing rights at the start of the week. The first cut was made after 36 holes and a total of 153 players made it into the third and fourth round.
A further cut was made after 72 holes and 78 players progressed into the fifth and final round where a total of 44 players from 12 countries securing their Tour cards for the 2018 season after making the cut-off mark set at two-under-par 353.
Players who missed the grade are eligible to play on the Asian Development Tour (ADT), which was launched as a gateway to the region’s premier Tour in 2010. The top-five finishers on the ADT Order of Merit at the end of the season will be awarded with playing rights on the Asian Tour for the following season.
Did you know?
- Seungtaek Lee topped the class in his first attempt at the Asian Tour Qualifying School. He became the second Korean following Yikeun Chang in 2016 to win the Asian Tour Qualifying School.
- Lee earns an elusive spot at the prestigious SMBC Singapore Open next week, thanks to his victory at the Qualifying School.
- The 22-year-old Lee had enjoyed a tied-13th place finish previously at the 2017 Shinhan Donghae Open on home soil.
- Lee turned professional three years ago and has been plying his trade on his domestic circuit prior to his campaign at the Asian Tour Qualifying School this week.
- Lee opened his campaign with three consecutive 69s before closing with two straight 67s to top the field.
- Sorachut Hansapiban secured his Asian Tour card in his third attempt at the Qualifying School this week. He missed the grade in his last two attempts in 2016 and 2017.
The 27-year-old Sorachut has been plying his trade on the ADT since 2016 and has come close to winning on several occasions.
- Kurt Kitayama, a former University of Nevada-Las Vegas standout, turned professional in 2015 and has played on the Web.com Tour for the past two years. He is currently based in Las Vegas.
- Kitayama, who secured his Asian Tour card in his first attempt at the Qualifying School this week, is celebrating his 25th birthday today.
- Jakraphan Premsirigorn finally secured his Asian Tour card for the first time in his fifth attempt at the Qualifying School. He had missed out in his previous attempts in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017.
- Jakraphan is a one-time winner on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) in 2013. He claimed his best result on the Asian Tour following a tied-ninth finish at the 2014 King’s Cup.
- The 26-year-old Jakraphan notched seven top-10 finishes on the ADT last year to end the season in 10th place on the final ADT Order of Merit, missing out on his 2018 Asian Tour card by five rungs.
- A total of 44 players from 12 countries earn their Asian Tour cards for the 2018 season. The countries represented are Australia (11), Korea (10), Thailand (7), United States (3), Japan (3), England (2), New Zealand (2), India (2), Spain (1), Sri Lanka (1), Argentina (1) and South Africa (1).
- Former Tour champions Thammanoon Sriroj and Udorn Duangdecha of Thailand, Himmat Rai of India and Australian David Gleeson, successfuly regained their playing rights on the Asian Tour for the 2018 season. Thammanoon signed for a 69 to finish tied-11th on 347 while Gleeson (69), Rai (74) and Udorn (67) were amongst those bunched in 34th place on 353.
Seungtaek Lee (Kor) – Final round 67 (-4), Total 341 (-14)
I am really happy to win the Asian Tour Qualifying School. This is my first attempt and I have played really well all week. I was a little nervous at the start of the week because of the big field and I know there are a lot of good players here.
I just played my own game out there and not think about anything else. After the three consecutive birdies from 15, I was trying to go for the win. I think I was being too aggressive coming down the 18th hole as I misjudged the distance with my approach shot and hit the roof of the marquee.
Luckily the ball dropped down and rolled back on to the green. I was very lucky there. I didn’t get off to a good start. I made a double-bogey on the fourth but bounced back with an eagle-two on sixth. From there, I just played my own game.
I made a long birdie putt from about 14 metres on 16 and I knocked it down with my second shot on 17 to about two metres before sinking that putt. I had a good run coming home and it gave me a lot of confidence.
It’s been a great week for me. I have a good friend Giwhan Kim who is playing on Tour so I am looking forward to joining him now. I am thrilled to earn a spot at the SMBC Singapore Open next week. I am very excited now because it’s a big tournament.
Sorachut Hansapiban (Tha) – Final round 68 (-3), Total 342 (-13)
I am pretty disappointed with the bogey on the last as it costed me a spot at the Singapore Open next week. But overall, I am pleased with how I played, not just today but the entire week. It has been a grueling test playing 90 holes this week so to finish second, I can’t complain.
This is my third time attempting to get my Asian Tour card at the Qualifying School. I am glad I finally made it. I tried my best this week. I have a lot of positives to take into the new season.
Kurt Kitayama (Usa) – Final round 66 (-5), Total 344 (-11)
I hit a lot better today and I sank more putts. I made a few up and downs as well. I had four birdies in a row today. I know those holes are pretty scorable so I just took advantage of my solid wedge-play today.
I hit the pin on the sixth hole with my wedge shot today before tapping in for birdie. I came through the first stage of the Qualifying School last week. It was quite a grind and I finally got used to everything. It was a lot better this week.
This is my first attempt at the Asian Tour Qualifying School. It was a good experience. I came from Chigo, California and I went to school at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. I have heard about the Asian Tour from my friends before so I thought it will be a good opportunity for me to travel around the world if I can come and try out here.
Jakraphan Premsirigorn (Tha) – Final round 66 (-5), Total 344 (-11)
I putted really good today. I started the week with a four-over 75 so to finish with three straight 66s, I am really happy with the way I played. I made a long putt from about 20 feet to save par on the 14th hole.
This is my sixth time trying out at the Qualifying School. I missed out in all my previous attempts so I am very glad that I finally earn my Asian Tour card this week. I tried to play my way onto the Asian Tour through the ADT last couple of years.
I came close last year but unfortunately didn’t manage to finish inside top-five on the ADT Order of Merit. This week’s result will make up for the disappointments over the years.
About Asian Tour
As the official sanctioning body for professional golf in Asia, the Asian Tour leads the development of golf across the region, enhancing the careers of its members while maintaining a commitment to the integrity of the game. The Asian Tour, through its membership of the International Federation of PGA Tours, is the only recognised pan-Asian professional golf tour in Asia. This unique feature positions the Asian Tour at the pinnacle of professional golf in Asia; providing its events with Official World Ranking status. Tour Partners include Rolex (Official Timekeeper), Panasonic (Official Consumer Electronics), ECCO (Official Footwear Sponsor), Titleist (Official Web Partner), Bloomberg TV (Official International Media Partner), Bloomberg Businessweek Chinese (Official International Media Partner), Wall Street Journal (Official International Media Partner) and Sentosa in Singapore which is the Home of the Asian Tour which also has an office in Kuala Lumpur.
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