Thai ‘Dragon’ triumphs at Saujana

Shah Alam, May 25: Thailand’s Atiruj Winaicharonechai won the MPI Generali Saujana Amateur Championship, edging Taiwan’s Chen Yi Tong in a playoff. 

Atiruj, nicknamed ‘Dragon’ as he was born in the Year of the Dragon, carded a closing even-par 72 to overnight leader Chen’s 76 to force the playoff. Both players were tied on five-under-par after 54 holes at Saujana Golf & Country Club’s Palm Course, one shot ahead of Singapore’s Gregory Foo who closed with an excellent 68.

On the first extra hole at the par-five 18th, the 16-year-old Atiruj sent his drive into a bunker and hit a poor second shot. Chen found a greenside bunker in two and Atiruj hit a three-iron third shot way right of the green. From there, the Thai conjured a sublime flop shot that stopped five feet from the flag.

The long-hitting Chen had birdied the 18th from a bunker in regulation play but made a mess of the hole this time around. He skulled his bunker shot over the green and duffed the return chip well short, missing the par-save from 10 feet.

Showing great composure, Atiruj nailed the putt – from almost the same spot where he missed a similar par putt on the last hole of regulation – to claim the title.

“I am really happy to win this event, which is my first senior title outside Thailand,” said Atiruj, who hopes to get into the Thai squad for this year’s SEA Games in Malaysia.

The win also earned Atiruj a start in an Asian Development Tour event, the PGM Darulaman Championship, in Kedah this July 12-15.

Ervin Chang finished as the top Malaysian in eighth position on 219.

More than 100 players from 15 countries took part in the 30th edition of the World Amateur Golf Ranking event.

Results (Malaysian unless stated)

211 – Atiruj Winaicharonechai (THA) 67-72-72, Chen Yi Tong (TWN) 68-67-76

(Atiruj won on first playoff hole)

212 – Gregory Foo  (SIN) 70-74-68

217 – Kosuke Hamamoto (THA) 73-71-73, Lachlan Barker (AUS) 70-71-76

218 – Witchayanon Chothirunrungrueng (THA) 69-73-76

219 – Jonathan Wijono (INA) 76-71-72, Ervin Chang 71-75-73

220 – Joshua Shou (SIN) 73-75-72, Ruperto Zaragosa III (PHI) 72-76-72, Joshua Ho (SIN) 69-77-74

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