Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, December 21: Thailand’s Namchok Tantipokhakul hogged the limelight after closing with five straight birdies to sign for a solid eight-under-par 63 and grab the opening lead by two shots at the Boonchu Ruangkit Championship on Thursday.
The 30-year-old Namchok, a one-time Asian Development Tour (ADT) winner, rode on a hot putter to fire one eagle and two birdies against a bogey before going on a hot streak starting from the 14th hole at the wind-swept Rancho Charnvee Resort and Country Club.
Two-time ADT winner Itthipat Buranatanyarat, also of Thailand, took second place while countryman Chanachok Dejpiratanamongkol and American Dino A. Giacomazzi shared third place following matching 66s at the ฿4 million (approximately US$120,000) ADT event.
“Putting was key for me today. I putted really well,” said Namchok. “The eagle on the fifth got my game going. I managed to get to the green in two shots and rolled in a four-footer for eagle. That gave me good momentum heading into the round.”
“I made a really good birdie on the ninth after hitting my tee shot onto the 10th fairway! I managed to get it back onto the ninth green with my second shot before making an eight-footer for birdie there,” added the burly Thai.
Despite failing to retain his Asian Tour card for the 2018 season, Namchok kept his head high and put himself back on track for a second victory on the region’s secondary circuit.
“The game was feeling good. I was just riding on the good form out there and made five birdies in a row! I made birdies on 16 and 17 from within four feet. This is the first time I had finish with five straight birdies in a round.
“I am very happy because I missed the cut by one shot here last year. I think I shot my best ever round on this course today,” exclaimed Namchok, who ended his 2017 season on the Asian Tour with a 67th place finish on the Order of Merit last week.
The 24-year-old Itthipat also put himself in position to make up for the disappointment of failing to retain his Asian Tour card with a good result at the season-finale this week.
“I didn’t hit really well but my short game was good. I putted very well and I stayed focused out there. I wasn’t thinking about my score out there. I just focused on my pre-shot routines and it turned out well,” said Itthipat, who needed only 27 putts around the greens.
“Although I didn’t manage to keep my card on the Asian Tour, I gained a lot of exposure and experiences. A lot of golf courses on the Asian Tour are those which I am playing for the first time. It was not easy but I learned a lot,” added the two-time ADT winner.
Giacomazzi, who is playing on a sponsor’s invite this week, expressed his appreciation to tournament host and Thai legend Boonchu Ruangkit for giving him an opportunity to play against some of the region’s best players this week.
“I am very fortunate to be here this week. I would like to thank Boonchu for giving me an invite to this tournament. It’s my first time here and I’m enjoying myself a lot,” said the 26-year-old American, who enjoyed a top-10 finish in Malaysia earlier in January.
Poom Saksansin of Thailand carded a 67 to take fifth place on his own while American Berry Henson, who is making a return to competitive golf this week after being sidelined by a wrist injury for 18 months, was one of the four players tied in sixth place on 68.
Defending champion Danthai Boonma of Thailand signed for a 69 to grab a share of 10th while compatriot Pannakorn Uthaipas and Masaru Takahashi of Japan, placed first and second respectively on the current Order of Merit, signed for matching 71s to tie in 32nd place.
The leading five players on the final ADT Order of Merit at the end of the week will earn playing rights on the region’s premier Tour for 2018.
For more information on the ADT, please visit www.asiandevelopmenttour.com.
Leading round one scores:
63 - Namchok TANTIPOKHAKUL (THA)
65 - Itthipat BURANATANYARAT (THA)
66 - Dino A. GIACOMAZZI (USA) , Chanachok DEJPIRATANAMONGKOL (THA)
67 - Poom SAKSANSIN (THA)
68 - Berry HENSON (USA) , Donlaphatchai NIYOMCHON (THA) , Jazz JANEWATTANANOND (THA) , Prayad MARKSAENG (THA)
69 - Janne KASKE (FIN) , Kittiporn JAVANAPONG (THA) , Chanwoo KIM (KOR) , Wisut ARTJANAWAT (THA) , Peradol PANYATHANASEDH (THA) , Danthai BOONMA (THA) , Mathiam KEYSER (RSA) , Prom MEESAWAT (THA) , Chawalit PLAPHOL (THA) , KOH Deng Shan (SGP)
70 - Chaiphat KOONMARK (THA) , Nirun SAE-UENG (THA) , Tanapat PICHAIKOOLL (A) (THA) , Josh SALAH (USA) , Suttijet KOORATANAPISAN (THA) , Somkiat SRISA-NGA (THA) , Ratchapol JANTAVARA (THA) , Blake SNYDER (USA) , Pawin INGKHAPRADIT (THA) , Jakraphan PREMSIRIGORN (THA) , Oscar ZETTERWALL (SWE) , Nakul VICHITRYUTHASASTR (THA)
71 – Pannakorn Uthaipas (Tha), Masaru Takahashi (Jpn)
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.