Tour rookie Kitayama wins the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open

Sun 02 Dec 2018

Tour rookie Kitayama wins the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open

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Beau Champ, Mauritius, December 2: Kurt Kitayama of the United States won his maiden Asian Tour title after carding a final round four-under-par 68 at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open on Sunday.

The 25-year-old Kitayama went into the fourth round with a share of the lead. He has never been in a similar position on the Asian Tour this season but he showed no sign of nerves, establishing the pace early in the day by making birdie-eagle-birdie from holes two to four at the Four Seasons Golf Club, Mauritius at Anahita.

With that, Kitayama went into the outright lead and held it for the rest of the day. The 2018 Asian Tour Qualifying School graduate gave the chasing pack a glimmer of hope when he bogeyed the 16th, but he recovered with a birdie on the following hole before signing for a winning total of 20-under-par 268 total.

Kitayama earned a winner’s cheque of US$179,607 and moved into the top-10 of the Asian Tour Habitat for Humanity Standings.

India’s Chikkarangappa S. has also given his position on the merit list a significant boost after grabbing a share of second place with Frenchman Matthieu Pavon, and earning US$104,365. He has virtually secured his Tour card for the 2019 season.

Chikkarangappa finished the way he started the tournament - bogey-free. He showed his raw emotions on the 16th after making a difficult birdie and carried the momentum to the following hole. A difficult par save on the 18th ensured that he maintained his tied-second position.

Justin Harding of South Africa

Justin Harding of South Africa was gunning for his third victory on the Asian Tour but had to contend with a fourth-place finish in Mauritius. The 32-year-old brought his terrific form from yesterday into his final round, evident from his birdies on second and fourth.

However, his title bid took a drastic turn after consecutive bogeys on holes six and seven. He admittedly struggled for the rest of the day and could not find that extra gear to bring him back up the leaderboard.

Nevertheless, Harding managed to close the gap on leader Shubhankar Sharma on the Asian Tour Habitat for Humanity Standings after earning US$55,639 at the AfrAsia Mauritius Open. 

Did you know:

  • Kurt Kitayama turned professional in 2015 and has played on the Web.com Tour for the past two years before transitioning to the Asian Tour.
  • The Asian Tour rookie earned his card for the 2018 season via Qualifying School in January this year. 
  • Before coming to Mauritius, he has one victory on the Asian Development Tour (ADT), as well as three top-10s on the Asian Tour.
  • At 326.6 yards, he is ranked first in average driving distance at the 2018 AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open.
  • Kitayama was 1121st on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) at the end of 2017. He can move as high as 196th following his victory in Mauritius.
  • He is the second 2018 Asian Tour Qualifying School graduate to win this season after India’s Viraj Madappa.
  • Chikkarangappa S. credited his recent success to the tweaks he made to his swing two months ago. Since then, he won a tournament on the Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) and notched a tied-second finish in Mauritius.
  • This is his best ever finish on the Asian Tour.
  • He is the best putter in Mauritius. Chikkarangappa is ranked first in average putts per round (26) and average putts per green-in-regulation (1.509).
  • Last year, he retained his Asian Tour card for the 2018 season on the number.
  • Justin Harding received an invitation to play at the Bank BRI Indonesia Open earlier this year by virtue of his outstanding form on the Sunshine Tour. He went on to win the tournament and subsequently took up Asian Tour membership.
  • He won the Royal Cup a fortnight later, becoming the first golfer in Asian Tour history to win twice in his first two starts.
  • Harding still has a chance to win the Asian Tour Order of Merit title, as there are two more events on the Asian Tour schedule - the ZAR17,500,000 (approximately US$1.26 million) South African Open hosted by the City of Johannesburg and the US$750,000 Indonesian Masters.

Players’ Quotes

Kurt Kitayama (Usa) – Fourth round 68 (-4), total 268 (-20)

I’m just so proud, really happy. It’s an unbelievable moment for me, I’m just so happy I was able to pull it off. There were definitely some nerves around the first tee shot. Going birdie-eagle-birdie helped to calm things down for the rest of the day.

I was aware a little bit of what was going on and I kept one eye on the scoreboard. I just tried to stay calm and take it one shot at a time. It was important on 13, to get back with another birdie. I just tried to stay patient.

This whole year has been, well, what a great year! I still have two more events on the Asian Tour, but to win on one of the last events of the year is just great.

It’s been a different journey for me (going from Web.com Tour to Asian Tour to European Tour). It’s been really exciting, being able to travel all over the globe and I’m going to continue to travel more. I’m really looking forward to it.

Chikkarangappa S. (Ind) – Fourth round 67 (-5), total 270 (-18)

It was a fantastic round today. Looking at the scoreboard, the leading guys were making the golf course look like a mini-golf course. It must have been 20 or 21 under in the first four or five holes. Which was why I told myself that I must charge. I’ve played to a solid finish today, which was much needed. I’m very happy with it.

The 16th and 17th were the rollercoaster putts. I was under pressure to make those and I’m proud of myself for being able to do so. Before those holes, I saw the scoreboard and told myself that I have a great chance of heading up there. I have to finish within the top-four. The putt on 16th was amazing. It was 100 per cent perfection.

On the 18th as well. It was a great par putt. There was no sand where I was and the ball came out hot and running. I parred the hole to save a lot of money, which will help my position on the Habitat for Humanity Standings.

After shooting an eight-under-par in the first round, a win was on my mind. I just failed by two shots. I’m going to the positives from this week. I can smile and say that my Asian Tour card is done now. I can head out to South Africa for another week and I can go and just look for a win.

I’m in a better place [on the merit list] compared to last year. I’m going to South Africa and the Indonesian Masters with a bigger smile than I had this week.

Matthieu Pavon (Fra) – Fourth round 67 (-5), total 270 (-18)

I started well. I was pretty comfortable on the front nine, made some great birdies and had many chances. I just made a bad three putt on number eight, I mean, it happens. Then it was a little bit harder for me to get close to the flag, one or two putts did not go in.

I just missed a small opportunity on 18 to finish in second by myself. But it was a fantastic week, I played really well and I enjoyed the week.

When I was on the course I was really comfortable. I played really strongly. It was close for me, nothing big went wrong just a bit of luck on the week, drop more putts and a bit more concentration on a few shots. That would probably make the difference this week and the next few weeks.

I was working on my swing for a few days, so that’s a fantastic result. If someone told me that before starting the tournament I would take it. I am happy with the result and I will go forward.

Justin Harding (Rsa) – Fourth round 71 (-1), total 271 (-17)

The final round was rather annoying, to be fair. I started out really solidly. The key for me throughout the year was to keep the momentum going throughout the rounds. I made an aggressive play on sixth and I thought that I have enough club to get it over the trap but the wind knocked it down. On Friday or Saturday, the ball would have got it passed the flag. That bogey just knocked me on my bum and I bogeyed the next.

I gave myself chances on the 10th, 11th and 12th but I felt that I never hit it on the right side of the hole. It was just one of those days. I made some bad swings on the 14th and 15th and I was lucky to make some serious pars.

Kurt played great. He started well on the front nine and held it together. We had a nice time out there. Not the result I’m looking for, but it’s not bad. I would have taken it at the start of the week.

I’m slowly moving up the Habitat for Humanity Standings. Not as much as I would like if I had won the tournament, but it is still a good progression. I’ve just got to go out and play well. I’m still in contention and I’m playing alright.

Ends.

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), Habitat for Humanity (Official Sustainable Development Partner), ECCO (Official Footwear Sponsor), Titleist and FootJoy (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.