Changhwa, Chinese Taipei, June 25: Thai hotshot Pannakorn Uthaipas gave himself the perfect birthday gift by securing a three-shot victory for his first Asian Development Tour (ADT) title at the US$160,000 Taifong Open on Sunday.
The talented Thai, who turns 27 in three days, overcame a shaky start where he traded two birdies against two bogeys in his opening five holes with three birdies on his way home for a closing three-under-par 69 and a winning total of 13-under-par 275 at the Taifong Golf Course.
Local hero Lin Wen-tang held a one-shot lead after nine but an errant tee shot on 14 saw his title hopes dashed as he stumbled with a double-bogey. He bounced back with a birdie on the last to share second place with Australia’s Marcus Both (68) and Gunn Charoenkul (69) of Thailand.
Thailand’s Nattawat Suvajanakorn marked his best efforts of the week with a bogey-free 67. He settled for fifth place on 279 alongside countryman Phanuvich Onchu (71), local talent Hsu Hao-sheng and American Blake Snyder, who closed with matching 71s at the Taifong Open.
Pannakorn, who held a two-shot advantage heading into the final round, was thrilled to finally claim his breakthrough win in the tournament where he had finished tied-second after losing in a five-way play-off three years ago. He is the second Thai, following Asian Tour winner Rattanon Wannasrichan, to win the Taifong Open, which came on board the ADT schedule in 2014.
“I don’t know how to describe this feeling. I am very happy. I have been waiting for this win for a long time. I finally proved that I can do it! It’s my biggest win so far. Lin is a very good player but he just got unlucky on the 14. I am glad I managed to get the job done.
“I was a little bit nervous actually. I started well with a birdie on the first but bogeyed the next. It was kind of shaky but I managed to calm myself down and stay focused. I made a good bogey on par-five fifth despite taking an unplayable penalty shot for my third shot,” said the burly Thai.
Pannakorn takes home his career’s biggest prize purse of US$28,000 and receives six Official World Ranking Point (OWGR) thanks to his victory. The top-six players and ties also earn points on a sliding scale.
Lin, a six-time winner on the premier Asian Tour, rued a costly mistake on 14 but took pride in his overall performance which gave his younger rivals a run of their money in the Taifong Open, where he came in tied-third last season.
“I guess I managed to pile the pressure on Pannakorn on the front nine but I knew the back nine is crucial. I played well overall. I only made one mistake today but it was a costly one as Pannakorn birdied that hole and I slipped three shots back.
“I tried my best to bounce back after that. I played really aggressively, especially on the 18 where I hit my driver twice. It’s good to see these young players coming up. I just have to tell myself to work harder,” said the 42-year-old Lin.
Both, a three-time winner on the Asian Tour, was pleased to end his campaign on a positive note despite missing out on the victory.
“I played really nicely. I got off to a nice start and I had a great finish. I haven’t been in this position for a little while so it’s nice to see my name up on the leaderboard. I have changed my practice routine a little bit in the last couple of months, doing a lot more competitive practicing. It has make it easier for me when I go out there,” said the 38-year-old Australia.
Gunn, who enjoyed a top-five finish in Phuket last month, was thrilled to put up another noteworthy result on the ADT, which propelled him to second place on the latest Order of Merit.
“I kept my game going out there. I hit an errant shot on 10. I thought I had a lost ball so I went to hit another ball off the tee but I found the ball in the rough walking down. I made a double-bogey there. I was a little frustrated but my girlfriend who is on my bag this week tried to calm me down after that. I managed to bounce back with two birdies coming back
With this victory, Pannakorn took over the driver’s seat on the Order of Merit with a current haul of US$31,534. He leads by US$15,386 over countryman Gunn, who finished tied-second in what is the richest event on the ADT schedule.
For more information on the ADT, please visit www.asiandevelopmenttour.com.
Leading final round scores:
275 - Pannakorn UTHAIPAS (THA) 72 67 67 69
278 - Marcus BOTH (AUS) 69 69 72 68, Gunn CHAROENKUL (THA) 72 69 68 69, LIN Wen-tang (TWN) 69 72 67 70
279 - Nattawat SUVAJANAKORN (THA) 71 70 71 67, Blake SNYDER (USA) 68 71 69 71, HSU Hao-sheng (TWN) 72 68 68 71, Phanuvich ONCHU (THA) 72 69 67 71
280 - YEH Yu-chen (TWN) 72 71 70 67, Sattaya SUPUPRAMAI (THA) 69 67 73 71
282 - LU Chien-soon (TWN) 70 73 69 70, Sorachut HANSAPIBAN (THA) 68 69 72 73, Steve LEWTON (ENG) 72 68 69 73
283 - KAO Teng (TWN) 75 68 71 69, Namchok TANTIPOKHAKUL (THA) 72 67 72 72
284 - Panuwat MUENLEK (THA) 67 71 76 70, John Michael O’TOOLE (USA) 70 70 74 70, TSAI Chi-huang (TWN) 72 69 73 70
285 - WANG Tsung-chieh (TWN) 72 69 74 70, Itthipat BURANATANYARAT (THA) 70 69 75 71
286 - Suradit YONGCHAROENCHAI (THA) 69 73 74 70, George GANDRANATA (INA) 72 69 72 73
287 - YANG Fei-hao (TWN) 72 72 72 71, WANG Wei-lun (TWN) 70 71 73 73, Scott SECORD (CAN) 75 68 71 73
About 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.