Noh Sweat

Thu 26 Mar 2009

Noh Sweat


Hua Hin, Thailand, March 26: Korean teenage star Noh Seung-yul crafted a six-under-par 66 to grab the early first round lead in the inaugural Black Mountain Masters on Thursday.

The talented 17-year-old, last season's Asian Tour Rookie of the Year, sank seven birdies against a lone bogey at the magnificent Black Mountain Golf Club to lead by one shot from Filipino veteran Frankie Minoza, George Coetzee of South Africa and Australian duo Neven Basic and Peter Cooke.


Thailand's Chapchai Nirat, who enjoyed a record 32-under-par victory in India last week, bogeyed his last hole for a 69 in the US$500,000 Asian Tour event to lie three off the early pace.


"I made a few putts and every shot I hit kind of worked out there," said Noh.


"I'm feeling good. I took a two week break recently from the Asian Tour as I was feeling a bit tired after playing in four straight events. I put in a bit of work which showed on the course today," added the Korean, who is currently 10th on the Order of Merit with one top-10 and two top-20s from his four starts this season.


After a stellar rookie season where he won once and posted three other runner-up finishes, Noh is being widely tipped to head for stardom and head along the same footsteps of Korea's most famous golfing son, Choi Kyung-ju.


The soft-spoken Noh made known his short and long term goals after his round. "My game is getting better as I'm gaining more experience playing on the Asian Tour. I'm taking it one step at a time. My target is to try and win the Asian Tour Order of Merit over the next two or three years and become better than KJ Choi eventually," said Noh.


Starting from the 10th, Noh bogeyed the 12th hole but showed his class with seven birdies over the next 15 holes. He rolled in a 30-footer on 15 while the other remaining birdies were from close range.


"It's a beautiful course out here and I enjoy playing here. The wind tends to pick up in the afternoon but it's not a problem for me as where I come from (Kang Won-do), it is also windy there during spring time," said Noh, who won the Midea China Classic last year.


If Noh represents the future of golf in Asia, veteran Minoza, who turns 50 in December, is amongst the first from the region to make a name for himself internationally with multiple titles in Japan and Asia.


The amiable Filipino concedes that it is getting tougher for him to compete against the young guns and he is looking forward to an attempt at the Champions (Seniors) Tour qualifying school in the United States later this year.


"It's so difficult to keep up with the young boys as they are hitting it so long. The game has changed. When you are turning 50, your dream is to play on the Champions Tour, and not this Tour any more as it's harder to compete," said Minoza, whose card included seven birdies against two dropped shots.


"I am quite happy with the round. My irons worked really well. I have been hitting the ball quite good at the start of the year but my putting wasn't so good but I'm quite happy with my overall game.


"I still work hard. When I'm home, I go to the gym every day. I do weights and go biking. That's my hobby now, to try to become fitter. Otherwise I can't keep up with the young boys, especially in this heat. If you have no stamina, you'll die early!"


Basic got off to a flying start with two birdies and an eagle over his opening three holes. The Australian, who finished in the top-65 last year to earn his full card, was relishing his chance to contend for a first Asian Tour victory.


"I played nicely and got off to a very good start. It's my best first round in a while. I've sort of had two decent rounds and two average rounds this season. Hopefully I can have four good ones this week. I've just been there or there abouts. I've not gone on a roll or had a string of birdies," said the 30-year-old.