Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, May 9 - Thai youngster Nirun Sae-Ueng claimed his maiden Asian Development Tour (ADT) victory at the PGM Sabah Championship on Saturday after defeating reigning Order of Merit champion and countryman Pavit Tangkamolprasert on the first play-off hole.
The 20-year-old Thai, who closed with a stunning seven-under-par 65, edged out Pavit on the 18th hole sudden-death shoot-out with a par after the duo tied on eight-under-par 280 in regulation play at the Sabah Golf and Country Club.
Phachara Khongwatmai, the youngest winner on the ADT, ensured a strong Thai presence on the final leaderboard when he carded a 67 to share third place on 281 with overnight leader Danthai Boonma, who registered a 71, in the RM200,000 (approximately US$55,400) ADT event, which is the 10th leg of the ADT this season.
One-time Asian Tour winner Ben Leong, who hails from Sabah, fired a 66 to emerge as the top Malaysian in fifth place on 284 while two other Thais, Pasamet Pogamnerd (68) and Sutijet Kooratanapisan (72) were a further shot back in a share of sixth place.
In the final round all the Indonesians were able to significantly climb on the leaderboard. Jordan Irawan (69) just missed out on a place in the top 10 with a total of 287, while Rory Hie (68) and William Sjaichudin (70) both finished in the top 30 with total scores of 290 and 291 respectively.
Nirun needed only 25 putts in his round of eight birdies, nine pars and one bogey which would have matched the course record set by compatriot Thammanoon Sriroj in 1997 if not for the preferred lies ruling being in effect.
“I am very happy. I played solid. My putting was good and I hit my tee shots very well. Everything just seemed to be in place for me. The playing conditions were pretty similar to the last few rounds. The course was still playing tough but I just stuck to my game plan and didn’t think much out there,” said Nirun.
He stumbled with his only bogey on the first hole but recovered swiftly with a birdie on the second before charging ahead with four straight birdies from the fourth hole and adding three more birdies on his way home.
“Pavit is a good friend of mine and we played together during our practice rounds earlier this week. I know he is a good player and has won a lot of times on the ADT but I did not to put pressure on myself. No matter what happens, I am happy with how I played and I have enjoyed my game. With this win, I can now aim to finish in top-five on the Merit rankings,” added Nirun.
Nirun earned US$9,730 and six Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points courtesy of his victory at the PGM Sabah Championship, which was his second professional win since joining the play-for-pay ranks in 2014. He won on his domestic circuit earlier this year.
Pavit, who shot a bogey-free 66, was delighted to cap a ‘perfect’ round despite being denied a record fifth victory. “I can’t complain. I played really good and I would say it was a perfect game for me. I managed to keep the bogeys off the card. I am happy to give myself a chance by forcing my way into the play-off,” said the 26-year-old Pavit.
“I knew I had to make the birdie on the last to get into the play-off. I told myself I have to make it and I managed to putt in from 10-feet for birdie. I had earlier saved par from 10-feet on the 17th hole so I was pretty confident that I can do it,” added Pavit.
Since it was inaugurated as a gateway to the Asian Tour in 2010, the ADT has grown from five events in the first year to a record 21 tournaments in both 2014 and 2015.
The ADT will continue to reward the top-five finishers on the Order of Merit at the end of this season with Asian Tour cards for 2016.
Leading final round scores:
280 – Nirun SAE-UENG (THA) 73-69-73-65, Pavit TANGKAMOLPRASERT (THA) 70-69-75-66
281 – Phachara KHONGWATMAI (THA) 68-72-74-67, Danthai BOONMA (THA) 72-69-69-71
284 – Ben LEONG (MAS) 75-71-72-66
285 – Pasamet POGAMNERD (THA) 74-71-72-68, Sutijet KOORATANAPISAN (THA) 70-70-73-72
286 – Charles HONG (PHI) 73-73-70-70, Brett MUNSON (USA) 74-71-70-71, Donlaphatchai NIYOMCHON (THA) 72-68-74-72
287 – Jordan IRAWAN (INA) 74-71-73-69, Gyeongjun LEE (KOR) 72-69-75-71, LAM Chih Bing (SIN) 74-71-73-69, Rizal AMIN (MAS) 74-72-70-71, KOH Deng Shan (SIN) 70-71-72-74, Thammanoon SRIROJ (THA) 74-72-66-75, Danny CHIA (MAS) 67-72-72-76
290 - Rory HIE (INA) 73-75-74-68
291 - William SJAICHUDIN (INA) 74-66-81-70