Hue, Vietnam, March 17: Thailand’s Napat Paramacharoenroj produced a grandstand finish to claim victory in the 11th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final.
Under the gaze of six-time Major champion Sir Nick Faldo, Napat – nicknamed Toy – drained a 35-foot birdie putt on the final green at the award-winning Faldo Design layout at Laguna Lăng Cô in Danang for a closing three-under-par 68 in The R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking event. That gave him a 54-hole total of eight-under 205 and a one-stroke win from Indonesian Jonathan Wijono (69), who was left to rue a double-bogey six at the 16th.
A further stroke back in third was Australian Daniel Gale (69) with first round leader Mohammad Rasel of Bangladesh (70) in fourth on 208 and Chinese-Taipei’s Liu Yung-hau (72) fifth on 209.
“It’s been a memorable week. My thanks to Sir Nick Faldo for providing this opportunity. This is certainly one of the highlights of my golfing career,” said 15-year-old Napat, who is only the second Thai winner of the Faldo Series Asia Grand Final, following in the footsteps Nakarin Ratanakul, who triumphed at Mission Hills China in the inaugural event in 2007.
Sir Nick, who hosted participants from 20 countries at the Laguna Lăng Cô resort this week, said: “Congratulations to Khun Toy. He showed tremendous skill and composure. To make a birdie to win under such intense pressure at the final hole was commendable. He is a worthy champion.”
In the Girls’ Division, pride of place went to Chinese Taipei’s Hung Jo-hua. She carded a 72 to win the Girls’ Under-21 category and finish as the leading overall female on 213.
Other age group winners were Japan’s Minori Nagano (Girls’ Under-16), Indonesian Almay Rayhan (Boys’ Under-18) and Australian Daniel Gale (Boys’ Under-21). Malaysia’s Geraldine Wog finished third in the Girls’ Under-16 after rounds of 70, 73 and 76.
Scratch-handicapper Napat began the final round in a share of the lead. With birdies at the second, third and fourth he moved clear at the top but then suffered a crisis of confidence following back-to-back bogeys at five and six. His fourth birdie of the day at 12 settled his nerves, but with Wijono, Gale, Rasel and Liu in hot pursuit the tension mounted.
Wijono took the lead with a birdie at 15, but found trouble at the par-four 16th with his drive. He reached the green in three and then three-putted to hand the initiative back to Napat, who was in front by one as he stood on the tee at the par-five 18th.
Wijono ramped up the pressure by finding the green in two. Napat, meanwhile, pulled his second shot to the left and was unfortunate to find his ball in a divot from where he left his pitch well short of the cup. After watching Wijono’s eagle attempt slide to the right, Napat stepped up and holed his long putt to ensure a play-off would not be necessary.
“I was just trying to focus on the moment and concentrate on each shot. On 18, I was just trying to two-putt and thought it would be a play-off,” admitted Napat, who clenched his fist in a rare show of emotion as his putt disappeared below ground.
As well as receiving the Faldo Series Asia trophy, Napat will be granted an exemption into an Asian Tour event, while Hung will be given a start in a Ladies European Tour event. Both have also earned themselves a trip to compete in this year’s Faldo Series Europe Grand Final.
Sir Nick said: “Over the course of the past 11 years, many of the players who have participated in the Faldo Series have gone on to enjoy successful professional careers. This week we brought together more than 80 talented young golfers from around the world. The standard of play is improving every year and I’m excited about the future as we continue our effort to grow the game of golf globally through the Faldo Series.”
The 2016-17 Faldo Series Asia campaign stretched over 11 months with two events in China, India and Thailand, and one each in Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Chinese-Taipei, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.
Recognised as the only global amateur series for boys and girls, the Faldo Series was established in 1996, expanding to Asia in 2006. Today, 40 Faldo Series tournaments take place in 30-plus countries worldwide, touching more than 7,000 golfers each year. Past winners include Tseng Ya-ni and Rory McIlroy, both multiple Major winners.
Overall: 205 – Napat Paramacharoenroj (Thailand) 70-67-68. 206 – Jonathan Wijono (Indonesia) 70-67-69. 207 – Daniel Gale (Australia) 70-68-69.
Boys’ Under-21: 207 – Daniel Gale (Australia) 70-68-69. 208 – Mohammad Rasel (Bangladesh) 66-72-70. 209 – Liu Yung-hua (Chinese Taipei) 69-68-72.
Boys’ Under-18: 211 – Almay Rayhan (Indonesia) 71-71-69. 213 – Jordan Woodall (New Zealand) 74-70-69; Yusuke Sakamoto (Japan) 70-70-73.
Boys’ Under-16: 205 – Napat Paramacharoenroj (Thailand) 70-67-68. 206 – Jonathan Wijono (Indonesia) 70-67-69. 212 – Kartik Sharma (India) 71-67-74. 140 – Naraadjie Emerald Ramadhan (Indonesia) 68-72.
Girls’ Under-21: 213 – Hung Jo-hua (Chinese Taipei) 73-68-72. 218 – Michela Tjan (Indonesia) 76-71-71. 220 – Chen Hsuan (Chinese Taipei) 77-71-72.
Girls’ Under-16: 216 – Minori Nagano (Japan) 72-71-73; Amelia Garvey (New Zealand) 74-68-74. 219 – Geraldine Wong (Malaysia) 70-73-76.