Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, December 22: Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond signed for a commanding eight-under-par 63 to grab the opening round lead by two shots while Rizal Amin of Malaysia scored his first ace at the Boonchu Ruangkit Championship on Thursday.
The 21-year-old Thai needed only 28 putts to put himself ahead of the strong field gathered at the 3,500,000 Baht (approx. US$100,114) event, which is the final leg of the Asian Development Tour (ADT) schedule this season.
Rizal, a one-time ADT winner, struck his first ever hole-in-one as a professional golfer after hitting a six-iron on the 186-yard par-three 13 hole at the Rancho Charvee Resorts and Country Club. He won for himself a club car worth 309,000 Baht (approx. US$8,574).
Thailand’s Danthai Boonma, a winner on the Asian Tour, carded a 65 to share second place with countrymen Udorn Duangdecha and Thanyakon Khrongpha, who were both flawless with six birdies, after day one of the ADT event hosted by Thai legend Boonchu Ruangkit.
Local stars Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Thongchai Jaidee, who is bidding for a win to break into the world’s top-50 at the end of the week, were amongst those bunched in fifth place following matching 66s.
Malaysia’s Gavin Green, placed second on the current rankings, posted a 70 to sit in tied-38th position. He needs at least a top-six finish this week to become the second Malaysian, following Nicholas Fung in 2013, to win the 2016 ADT Order of Merit.
Thailand’s Panuwat Muenlek and American John Michael O’Toole, both chasing to finish inside top-eighth on the final Merit rankings to earn their playing rights on the Asian Tour in 2017, opened with rounds of 70 and 71 respectively.
Jazz was a man on fire. He ran out with four birdies against one bogey to turn in 32 before adding five more birdies, including three consecutive ones from 14, on his homeward nine.
“Everything was good for me. Everything has to be good if you want to shoot a 63 on this golf course. I hit the ball good and I putted really well. I sank a 60-footer for birdie on 11 and that was the highlight for me today,” said Jazz.
“I like playing on this golf course. It’s very nice out there and you always get good weather here in Khaoyai. I am pleased with the way I played. We will be playing the tournament all the way till Christmas so I just want to stay as happy as I can!” Jazz added.
Despite stumbling with a bogey on his second hole of the day on 11, Danthai kept his cool as he recovered brilliantly with four birdies in the next five holes to turn in 33. He highlighted his card with three more birdies on his way home.
“I had an early start and I was lucky because we didn’t get much wind. I was able to hit it near the pins with my approach shots. I managed to birdie all the par-fives too. I got lucky on the third. I chipped in for birdie from about 20 yards,” said the 20-year-old Danthai.
“My only blemish today was the bogey on 11 after hitting it into the water but I had a superb bounce back. I gained a lot of confidence from there. It was a perfect day I would say,” added Danthai.
Rizal, who signed for a 68 to trail by five shots in tied-16th position, was clearly overjoyed with his ace. “It was a bit of a slow start for me but I managed to get things going after I birdied the 12. The hole-in-one was unexpected. I didn’t think it will go in but it did.
“I was in a bit of a shock after that. I hit it to the left and the ball hit a slope before triggering to the right and into the hole. It’s a great feeling. The course is playing tough given the windy conditions in the afternoon but I am happy with the way I played,” said the 33-year-old Malaysian, a one-time ADT winner.
With three players inside top-six of the current ADT Order of Merit already secured their cards through the Asian Tour this season, the next highest ranked three players will be promoted onto the region’s premier Tour.
O’Toole, placed eighth on the Merit rankings, is currently in position to secure the fifth and last 2017 Asian Tour card on offer to leading players on the ADT, which was launched as a gateway to the Asian Tour in 2010.
The Boonchu Ruangkit Championship is the final event of the 2016 ADT schedule. A total of nine Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points will be awarded to the winner, given the strength of field.
For more information on the ADT, please visit www.asiandevelopmenttour.com
Leading first round scores:
63 - Jazz JANEWATTANANOND (THA)
65 - Danthai BOONMA (THA) , Thanyakon KHRONGPHA (THA) , Udorn DUANGDECHA (THA)
66 - Chirat JIRASUWAN (THA) , Jaturon DUANGPHAICHOOM (THA) , Kiradech APHIBARNRAT (THA) , Josh SALAH (USA) , Thongchai JAIDEE (THA) , Jonathan WOO (SGP)
67 - Lerpong SITTHIWONG (THA) , Raththee SIRITHANAKUNSAK (THA) , Purilarp EUAMMONGKOL (THA) , Settee PRAKONGVECH (THA) , Sakchai SIRIMAYA (THA)
68 - Sutijet KOORATANAPISAN (THA) , Natthapong NIYOMCHON (THA) , Chawalit PLAPHOL (THA) , Greg MOSS (USA) , Porameth SONTHIRATI (THA) , Kevin TECHAKANOKBOON (THA) , Rattanon WANNASRICHAN (THA) , Rizal AMIN (MAS) , James BOWEN (USA) , Phachara KHONGWATMAI (THA) , Wisut ARTJANAWAT (THA)
69 - Pornsakon TIPSANIT (THA) , John CATLIN (USA) , Lexus KEONINH (USA) , Ye Htet AUNG (MYN) , Bandit CHAISUK (THA) , Thummanoon KOONMARK (THA) , Irfan YUSOFF (MAS) , Prayad MARKSAENG (THA) , Janne KASKE (FIN) , Atthachai JAICHALAD (THA) , Warun EIAMGAEW (THA)
70 – Gavin Green (Mas), Panuwat Muenlek (Tha)
71 – John Michael O’Toole (Usa)
About the Asian Development Tour
The Asian Development Tour was launched in 2010 with the aim of creating a career pathway for professional golfers in Asia. Sanctioned by the Asian Tour, the Asian Development Tour will ultimately create a new playing platform for emerging stars from across Asia and around the world. Through the Asian Tour Qualifying School, players will qualify for the Asian Development Tour and enjoy the opportunity to hone their games and talent through a secondary circuit in Asia. Designed in the same structure as the Web.com Tour in America and European Challenge Tour, the Asian Development Tour is a stepping stone to the Asian Tour and the exciting world of international golf. The Asian Development Tour has been structured to ensure the best opportunities for its members. The leading five players on the Asian Development Tour will earn coveted Asian Tour cards for the following season, ensuring a proper career pathway for aspiring professionals. All ADT events receive Official World Golf Ranking points.