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‘Coconut’ floats up to world top 200

Thai hotshot Panuphol Pittayarat climbed to a career-high 190th position on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) following a memorable home victory at the prestigious Thailand Open on Sunday.

Nicknamed ‘Coconut’ by his parents, the 25-year-old Panuphol broke into the world’s top-200 for the first time in his career after claiming a one-shot victory on his home course at the Thai Country Club. The Thai marked his second win in what was his 150th start on the Asian Tour.

Heading into the final round with a one-shot lead, Panuphol closed with an even-par 70 and a 13-under-par 267 total to take home the winner’s prize purse of US$54,000, which moved him up 16 spots to 12th place on the Asian Tour Habitat for Humanity Standings.

Panuphol, who turned professional in 2007 at a young age of 14, also received 14 OWGR points courtesy of his victory at the US$300,000 Asian Tour event where he became only the fifth Thai to win his National Open since its inception in 1965. He was especially proud to clinch the title in front of his father Chinnawat, who had watched him from the gallery on the 18th green.

“It’s amazing. I can’t put it into words. It means a lot to win the title in front of my dad. He’s been with me ever since I picked up the game when I was eight. He’s been my best coach and my everything. I don’t know how to feel walking up to the 18th green but I am really very happy. I always want him to see me win and I have done it now,” said Panuphol of his father.

Since coming through the Qualifying School in 2011, Panuphol has never finished outside the top-60 on the Order of Merit. His best season came in 2017 where he claimed his maiden Asian Tour title at the Indonesia Open in October before ending the year in 20th place on the money list with his total earnings of US$218,374.

“This means everything to me. This is my national trophy, my home course and this is where I practice. I’m very, very happy. I felt a bit of nerves coming down the stretch but I kept it cool and patient. I tried not to let the nerves affect my thinking, my game or feeling. I think I kept things under control pretty well.

“This win is a dream come true. It is always every Thai golfers dream to win their National Open. That win at the Indonesia Open taught me how to win a golf tournament. Today I tried to go back to what I felt in Indonesia and tried to do the same. It came out great,” he added.

The amiable Panuphol also sang his praises of his playing partner and compatriot Poom Saksansin, who matched his final day efforts with a 70 before settling for second place.

“Poom didn’t make it easy for me out there. He is one of the best golfers from Thailand and Asia. He beat Paul Casey at the EurAsia Cup earlier this year and it is like me playing in a match play against him. I didn’t push myself but he gave me a hard time out there,” Panuphol said.

TOP 10 THAIS IN OFFICIAL WORLD GOLF RANKING (as at June 10, 2018)

31. Kiradech Aphibarnrat (3.4069 average points)
179. Poom Saksansin (0.9303)
180. Jazz Janewattananond (0.9301)
190. Panuphol Pittayarat (0.8854)
222. Prayad Marksaeng (0.7725)
224. Phachara Khongwatmai (0.7690)
322. Thongchai Jaidee (0.5522)
333. Rattanon Wannasrichan (0.5378)
344. Danthai Boonma (0.5221)
414. Tirawat Kaewsiribandit (0.4330)
424. Prom Meesawat (0.4156)

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