Terengganu, Malaysia, March 14 - Thailand’s Panuwat Muenlek secured his maiden Asian Development Tour (ADT) victory after closing with a three-under-par 68 to win by three shots at the PGM Terengganu Championship on Saturday.
The 29-year-old Thai, who held a share of the overnight lead, fired six birdies against three bogeys to claim his first professional victory outside of Thailand on 11-under-par 273 total at the RM200,000 (approximately US$55,400) event.
Overnight co-leader Atthaphon Sriboonkaew, also of Thailand, battled to a 71 to share second place with countryman Itthipat Buranatanyarat, who carded a 68, at the Resorts World Kijal.
Singapore’s Lam Chih Bing (67) and Finland’s Janne Kaske (68) shared fourth place on 277 while American Shane Smith and Masaru Takahashi of Japan took sixth and seventh place respectively after returning with matching 71s at the RM200,000 (approximately US$55,400) event.
Defending champion Pavit Tangkamolprasert of Thailand settled for a share of 31st place on 289 after closing with a 71.
Indonesia's Rory Hie, who lead the field after the first round with a stunning 66, slipped back after not breaking par in the subsequent rounds. He finished at 2-over-par in a tie for 20th place, which must be a disappointment after starting so well.
Panuwat endured a slow start to the round but bounced back with a sensational back nine where he picked up a birdie on the 12th and nailed four more birdies in his last five holes.
“I’m thrilled. I didn’t play well on my front nine. I had a few misses and I felt uncomfortable but I told myself to move on and not think too much out there. My putting got better on the back nine and I was able to score,” said the slightly-built Thai, who pocketed US$9,459 and received six Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points courtesy of his win.
“I only started to feel nervous heading into the last few holes. Atthaphon is like a brother to me and we practise a lot together. I was very happy to be playing in the last group with him. I am sure this win will give me more confidence in my game. I will try and aim for a few more wins this season to finish top-five on the Merit rankings,” added Panuwat.
Despite being left to rue a missed chance for a maiden ADT victory, Athaphon tipped his hat to Panuwat for being a deserving winner.
“I didn’t putt as well today, compared to the first three rounds but overall, I’m still happy with how I played this week. This is my best finish on the ADT so far. I’m sure I will take home a lot of positives from this week. Panuwat played very well and I’m happy that he won,” said the 36-year-old Atthaphon, who mixed his card with three birdies and three bogeys.
Panuwat moved to third place on the ADT Order of Merit led by local talent Arie Irawan, who won the season-opening event on the burgeoning Tour this season.
The ADT will reward the top-five finishers on the Order of Merit at the end of this season with Asian Tour cards for 2016.
With the Olympic Games looming in 2016 where golf will be reintroduced as a medal sport, players in the region could earn their spots in Rio de Janeiro by earning Official World Golf Ranking points through the Asian Tour and ADT.
Leading final round scores:
273 – Panuwat MUENLEK (THA) 70-68-67-68
276 – Itthipat BURANATANYARAT (THA) 68-72-68-68, Atthaphon SRIBOONKAEW (THA) 68-71-66-71
277 – LAM Chih Bing (SIN) 72-69-69-67, Janne KASKE (FIN) 72-67-69-69
278 – Shane SMITH (USA) 68-70-69-71
280 – Masaru TAKAHASHI (JPN) 71-67-71-71
281 – Casey O’TOOLE (USA) 76-69-68-68, Akhmal TARMIZEE (MAS) 74-69-70-68, Lindsay RENOLDS (CAN) 67-73-72-69, Jordan SHERRATT (AUS) 72-68-70-71
286 - Rory HIE (INA) 66-75-72-73