Settee Prakongvech would love to win around the globe but wouldn’t mind either if every tournament he teed it up in was at Blue Canyon Country Club.
The 27-year-old continued his love affair with the Phuket course’s fabled Canyon layout when he captured his maiden Asian Development Tour (ADT) title on Friday in a classic snatch and grab job after jetting in from the Asian Tour.
Starting the final round of the $75,000 Blue Canyon Open three shots back, Prakongvech made the most of his own hot front nine and the misfortune of others coming home to win the 54-hole event, co-sanctioned by the MENA Tour, by a stroke.
Prakongvech’s closing four-under 68 saw him finish the Beautiful Thailand Swing (BTS) decider at -12, clear of a five-way tie for second featuring countrymen Chonlatit Chuenboonngam (65), Piya Sawangarunporn (67) and Witchayapat Sinsrang (68), Frenchman Victor Rui (71) and overnight co-leader Dodge Kemmer (72) of America.
It comes after the world No. 385 won the second of his thus far three All Thailand Golf Tour (ATGT) titles, the Singha All Thailand Championship, on the Canyon course last September.
This was Prakongvech’s sole appearance in the four-tournament BTS but victory comes as little surprise given he is currently third on the ATGT Order of Merit (OOM) and has been focusing his talents on the Asian Tour with his country exemption status.
He flew into Phuket fresh from a T-19 finish at the 41st GS Caltex Maekyung Open in Seoul and before that a career-best third-place finish at the DGC Open in India.
That US$31,5000 payday in Delhi makes up the bulk of the $39,421 that currently sees him feature 29th on the Asian Tour OOM.
“I have win here before at Blue Canyon, I love the course and today I played very well on the first nine,” said Prakongvech who negotiated the Canyon course’s outward half in four-under before mixing a birdie on 16 with a bogey on the next to play the inward nine in even par.
“I made two birdies on the par-3s and two birdies on the par-5s on the front nine, I hit every fairway, my game was very good and I can make the putts. But for the back nine, I have problems with the approach shots. I didn’t hit close to the pin so not many chances for birdie.”
It turns out Prakongvech got all the help he needed from the two groups ahead of him.
First tall Thai Vanchai Luangnitikul, the overnight co-leader with Kemmer, imploded with a triple-bogey six after ditching his tee shot on the par-3 14th in the water.
MENA Tour player and ADT affiliate Joshua Grenville-Wood was making a serious title charge in the penultimate group, arriving at the penultimate hole at five-under for the day and in the lead at -13 overall. But the young Englishman sadly found water to the right of the par-3 17th, settled for a double from the drop zone and then dropped another stroke on the last to sign for a 70 and a hard-to-accept share of seventh place.
Kemmer, who won the ADT’s season-opening Gurugram Open in India, had his putter to thank for hanging tough until the last hole when he ditched his drive into bushes hugging the left-hand side of the fairway on the par-4. The 34-year-old from south of San Francisco got a free drop from the GUR but came up short with his approach, pitched past the hole with this third and couldn’t muster one final piece of magic from his blade just when he needed it most.
“I am surprised, I didn’t expect for win,” Prakongvech said afterwards.
“I thought if I played my best I could finish top-five and not even when I finished I didn’t think I could win the tournament so it is a surprise.”
The $13,125 payday put Prakongvech up to fourth on The ADT OOM behind China’s Blue Canyon Classic winner Chen Guxin ($20,389), Kemmer ($18,756) and Laguna Phuket Cup champion Sarun Sirithon ($17,708).
Thailand’s Chanat Sakulpolphaisan ($13,059), Malaysia’s Shahriffuddin Ariffin ($10,237) and Thai teen Denwit Boriboonsub ($10,131) occupy the other spots in the top seven that will earn automatic Asian Tour promotion at the end of the season set to feature a run of six events in Indonesia announced on Friday.
Englishman Tom Sloman, who won the BTS’s opening Laguna Phuket Challenge, clinched the MENA Tour’s 2020+ Journey to Jordan OOM despite missing the cut in the Blue Canyon Open, along with second-placed David Langley.
Countryman David Hague had a chance to snatch the title with a top-four finish on Friday but struggled with his putter and had to settle for a 17th place. The $879.38 Hague won meant he moved up to $26,053 for the season and remained third overall behind Sloman ($28,870) and Langley ($27,557).
Sloman earns a start in one of the Asian Tour’s upcoming International Series events for his victory while the top-10 in the final J2J OOM earn invites to the next two ADT events (the June 7-10 OB Golf Invitational at Damai Indah Golf BSD and the June 15-18 Indo Masters Golf Invitational presented by TNE at Imperial Klub Golf), plus exemption to the final stage of the 2023 Asian Tour Q-School.
The Asian Development Tour (ADT), the Asian Tour’s feeder circuit, will stage six events in Indonesia this year – thanks to the gradual relaxation of restrictions for inbound travelers in the country.
Set to run in a window from early June through to the first week of September, total prize money of over half a million US dollars will be on offer with purses ranging from US$70,000 to US$110,000.
This exciting development will mean that Indonesia will become the biggest destination for the ADT in 2022.
With the addition of the Indonesian tournaments, the ADT schedule is now made up of 12 events, including four which are jointly-sanctioned with the MENA Tour – concluding this week in Phuket under the banner of the ‘Beautiful Thailand Swing’.
Sarun Sirithon is currently second on the Merit list.
The 72-hole Indonesian events will commence on June 8 with the OB Golf Invitational, followed the week after by the Indo Masters Golf Invitational presented by TNE at Imperial Klub Golf. Details of an event to be held in July will be announced later.
Then starting in August a lucrative stretch of tournaments will be held consecutively: the US$100,000 Gunung Guelis Golf Invitational supported by Nomura; the US$110,000 Ciputra Golfpreneur; and, the US$100,000 Combiphar Players Championship at Parahyangan Golf – a member of the Asian Tour Destinations network.
More ADT events this season will be announced in due course.
Unho Park, Director of Tour & Player Affairs, Asian Tour, said: “Providing playing opportunities for our ADT members is our prime objective this season. I’m delighted, therefore, that we’re able to announce these six ADT tournaments in Indonesia”.
“Not only will this enable us to surpass our target of staging at least 12 events this season, but also it gives us a massive boost as we continue to rebuild after such a long and frustrating break … and put together a full schedule for 2023.”
Park added: “The ADT has been a springboard to the Asian Tour for dozens of players, including our reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit champion Joohyung Kim of Korea and American John Catlin, a four-time winner on the Asian Tour”.
“We’re all excited to see which players will take up the baton this year and secure themselves spots on the Asian Tour in 2023.”
The leading seven players on the final ADT Order of Merit at the end of the season will earn playing rights on next year’s Asian Tour.
Following a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the ADT resumed last month with the inaugural Gurugram Challenge at the Classic Golf & Country Club on the outskirts of New Delhi, a co-sanctioned event with the Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI). Victory went to American Dodge Kemmer.
Dodge Kemmer claimed the Gurugram Classic in India.
Chen Guxin currently leads the Order of Merit, helped by winning the Blue Canyon Classic last week; in doing so, he became the first player from China to win on the Tour.
The Boonchu Ruangkit Championship, won by Thailand’s Pavit Tangkamolprasert in January 2020, will be counted on the current ADT season having been played before the COVID-19 pandemic suspension.
2020-2022 ADT Schedule:
Boonchu Ruangkit Championship
Jan 23 – 26, 2020 US$119,000 Rancho Charnvee Resort & CC
Won by Pavit Tangkamolprasert (THA)
Mar 29 – Apr 1 US$75,000 Classic Golf & CC
Won by Dodge Kemmer (USA)
Laguna Phuket Challenge
May 3-5 US$75,000 Laguna Golf Phuket
Won by Tom Sloman (ENG)
Laguna Phuket Cup
May 8-10 US$75,000 Laguna Golf Phuket
Won by Sarun Sirithon (THA)
Blue Canyon Classic
May 13-15 US$75,000 Blue Canyon CC
Won by Chen Guxin (CHN)
Blue Canyon Open
May 18-20 US$75,000 Blue Canyon CC
OB Golf Invitational
Jun 7-10 US$70,000 Damai Indah Golf BSD
Indo Masters Golf Invitational presented by TNE
Jun 15-18 US$70,000 Imperial Klub Golf
Jul 20-23 TBC Royale Jakarta
Gunung Geulis Golf Invitational supported by Nomura
Aug 17-20 US$100,000 Gunung Geulis CC
Aug 24-27 US$110,000 Damai Indah Golf BSD
Combiphar Players Championship
Aug 31 – Sep 3 US$100,000 Parahyangan Golf
If Dodge Kemmer can get just a little more co-operation out of his short irons on Friday, a second Asian Development Tour (ADT) title in three starts is a sensational possibility.
What he won’t be able to rely on is any help from Thai Vanchai Luangnitikul who will have his own victory plans after drawing level with the American atop the $75,000 Blue Canyon Open leaderboard on a Thursday of low morning scores and high afternoon winds.
A 68 to go with his opening 65 saw Kemmer set the clubhouse target at -11 on the Canyon layout before Luangnitikul breezed in with a 66 as the gusts picked up at Blue Canyon Country Club.
Frenchman Victor Riu, the most consistent of the MENA Tour players at the co-sanctioned series, will Strat Friday’s final round a shot further back while a pair of Thais, Poosit Supupramai and Atiruj Winaicharoenchai, are still very much in the hunt at -9.
Kemmer won the ADT’s season-opening Gurugram Open in India before by-passing the first half of the ADT’s Beautiful Thailand Swing (BTS) to play the GS Caltex Maekyung Open.
The 34-year-old made the cut at the Asian Tour event in Seoul then jetted into Phuket to finish a handy -8 and T-19 in the Blue Canyon Classic. After two days off, he’s back to his low scoring ways even though the second round wasn’t as flawless as the first.
“Today was a good scoring round but I didn’t quite have it going like I did yesterday, wedges and short irons weren’t really there and missed a few more fairways, “ Kemmer said.
“Nothing really felt as good but I got it up around greens a few times and up and down for birdie there so that definitely helped. I had a couple of bogeys but otherwise limited the mistakes.”
The trick now is finishing the job like he did in India with a closing 66 to win by three from Thai Chanat Sakulpolphaisan.
“Especially the three days ones [tournaments], it’s almost like today is Saturday [moving day] instead of Friday [the traditional second round] and it seems to be hard to follow a low round just statistically speaking so four-under I’m definitely happy with it.
“Another seven-under would have been amazing but unusual so happy with how it ended up and should be in a good spot tomorrow.”
Luangnitikul, the world No. 1391, finished T-4 at the Laguna Phuket Cup for his best finish in an OWGR event and has rebounded strongly after missing the cut at the following Blue Canyon Classic.
Suttijet Kooratanapisan hasn’t been so lucky. The first-round leader backed up his opening 64 with a windswept 79 to agonisingly miss the cut, made it -2, by a stroke. It included a bogey on the last in an inward nine negotiated in 41 shots, five over.
“I cannot hit the driver on this day, I lost about three or four balls,” the 31-year-old Thai said afterwards.
“Afternoon the strong wind is coming and it was really heavy on the last hole. Yeah, it is hard to take but the last thing [his round of 64] I think I can do it also so maybe I keep it for the next tournament.”
There was also major drama in the MENA Tour’s race within the wider BTS race with leader Tom Sloman (70-73 for -1) and second-placed David Langley (70-77 for +3) both missing the cut.
It means a third Englishman, David Hague, has an outside shot at winning the MENA Tour’s season-long ‘2020+ Journey to Jordan’ Order of Merit title in the last round. However, Hague will need some Friday fireworks as he is $3696 behind Sloman in the money list and will need to finish fourth or better to claim the crown and with it a start in on the Asian Tour’s upcoming $1.5 million-plus International Series events.
After a Thursday 70, Hague will start the final round at -5, six strokes off the lead and four strokes behind the current joint fourth place sitters.
Given Suttijet Kooratanapisan has missed all three previous cuts at the Beautiful Thailand Swing (BTS), few expected his birdie and eagle-laden charge to the summit of the Blue Canyon Open leaderboard on Wednesday.
What wasn’t a surprise was to see a low number, in this case an eight-under 64 on the Canyon course at Blue Canyon Country Club, beside the 31-year-old Thai’s name.
Kooratanapisan is famous for carding golf’s mythical number, 59, at nearby Laguna Golf Phuket during the 2017 Phuket Open, also an Asian Development Tour (ADT) event.
While he’s won on The ADT before at the 2016 Bangladesh Open, the man from Ratchaburi is still searching for his maiden Asian Tour title. You might have thought it was a long way off after his BTS struggles but it seems Kooratanapisan has rediscovered his go-low ability at the most opportune time.
“I just lost my confidence in first event but when I played in the practice round yesterday, I just find something to make me play better,” said Kooratanapisan who will take a one-stroke advantage over American Dodge Kemmer, who won the ADT’s season-opening Gurugram Open in India, into Thursday’s second round.
“I just find my tempo swing, and try to relax when I am in a round. Before that I have a pressure on myself so much.”
Kooratanapisan looked in fine-fettle from the get-go rather than a player struggling for form in the first round. He opened with back-to-back birdies from the 10th tee before adding one of two eagles on the 15th when he chipped in from 15 yards on the par-5.
There was another birdie as he turned in five-under 31 before he mixed two birdies and a watery bogey with a closing eagle on the 9th, the latter achieved with a four-iron gently cut to four feet. It was a nice bonus after he stood on the 9th tee, his 18th, with a more modest goal in mind.
“I thought when I was on the last hole that I just need only one more birdie so I’m very happy to finish with eagle,” said the world No. 1724.
Kooratanapisan is currently 151st on the Asian Tour Order of Merit (OOM) and fails to feature on the ADT money list after his struggles at the Laguna Phuket Challenge (+7 for T-105), Laguna Phuket Cup (+3 for T-93) and Blue Canyon Classic (- 1 for T-63). But he’s hoping Wednesday’s score signals a change in fortunes.
“My goal this year is I need to finish top 60 on the Asian Tour or try get top seven on The ADT [and gain automatic graduation to the main tour]. Today is a good start.”
French MENA Tour player Victor Riu and Thai Settee Prakongvech will start Thursday joint third after 66s while another Thai, Vanchai Luangnitikul, carded a five-under 67 to share fifth place alongside Malaysia’s Paul San.
Inside the top-15 is Lao’s Thammasack Bouahom whose round of 69 included a rare albatross two on the par-5 9th, his closing hole.
The finale of the MENA Tour OOM race, meanwhile, remains a cliffhanger with Journey to Jordan leader Tom Sloman signing for a two-under 70 – the same score as his nearest challenger David Langley. One better is fellow Englishman David Hague who is third in the race, one of only four players who can still capture the overall title and a player, not unlike Kooratanapisan, who is finally finding some form after missing the past two cuts.
The winner of the 2020+ Journey to Jordan, which will have spanned nine events, five countries, two continents and 837 days by the end of the Blue Canyon Open courtesy of the pandemic, earns an invite to one of the Asian Tour’s new $1.5 million-plus International Series events.
After coming within a whisker of his maiden Asian Development Tour (ADT) title two days ago, Denwit Boriboonsub cruelly understood what Jack Nicklaus meant when he uttered one of golf’s most famous quotes long before the Thai teen was born.
“Golf is not, and never has been, a fair game.”
With three successive 66s for an impressive -15 total on the Lakes layout at Blue Canyon Country Club, Boriboonsub looked to have produced the consummate front-runner’s performance to capture the Blue Canyon Classic on Sunday. What no one had figured on, or could even account for due to the lack of live scoring, was China’s Chen Guxin storming home three groups ahead with seven birdies in his last eight holes to get to -16.
Boriboonsub was finally alerted to Guxin’s clubhouse lead after hitting his own approach into the 54th and final hole but could not coax in the resulting 10-footer for birdie to force a playoff. It stung but perhaps the talented Thai 18-year-old will take some solace from another timeless golf ditty.
“I never learned anything from a match I won,” said Bobby Jones.
Thankfully Boriboonsub doesn’t have long to dwell on his near-miss with the $75,000 Blue Canyon Open, the final event of the quickfire Beautiful Thailand Swing, getting underway on the adjoining Canyon course at Blue Canyon Country Club on Wednesday.
As Ben Hogan once said, “The most important shot in golf is the next one.”
“The Blue Canyon Classic, the final round, I mean I played pretty well but it was just not my day,” said Boriboonsub. “The winner, [Guxin] he shot seven birdies in his last nine holes. I shot five-under, yeah 66, but yeah, this is golf. I’m happy with the result to finish solo second.
“I thought I’d done enough, but there’s no live scoring and I think five-under was still pretty good.”
It seems it is only a matter of time before Boriboonsub captures his first Asian Tour title and it won’t be a surprise if it comes this week or on the main tour. The now world No.436 has already won on the All Thailand Golf Tour (ATGT) and finished joint runner-up behind countryman Phachara Khongwatmai at the Asian Tour’s Laguna Phuket Championship in December.
“I think that one, it’s a confidence booster for me, for that young age, for a [then] 17-years-old, to get second place on the Asian Tour is huge. To get more confidence and I got world ranking points also, it’s a lot,” said Boriboonsub.
“My goal is to win this week but let’s see, let’s hope it works.”
Do you feel like you are closer to victory, especially after going so close two days ago?
“I’m not sure now. I’ll just play my best and hope for the results, hope they come my way.”
Like many young stars in waiting, Boriboonsub envisions a future crisscrossing the globe. Unlike others, the young Thai possesses the calm demeanour of a far more grizzled veteran. The way he emotionally flat-lined his way through the final round of the Blue Canyon Classic was as impressive as his ball-striking and patient course management.
“At the end of the year, I’ll go to Asian Tour Q-School and DP World Tour. This is the beginning of the journey. I’m pretty happy with the results in Thailand but my goal is to play in Europe or the PGA Tour.”
As Boriboonsub works his way through the Asian Tour eco-system, he’ll do well to remember the wise words of Nicklaus, Jones and Hogan along the way. It’s not the wins that shape you, rather how you respond to adversity. The first evidence of that will become evident when Boriboonsub makes his way to the 10th tee for his 7.40am tee time.
Like so many players, Chen Guxin overtly idolises Tiger Woods. Even his email address references the GOAT and golf stardom.
The 18-year-old from Hunan province isn’t China’s best golfer yet, much less in the same stratosphere as the 15-time major champion but he is well and truly on his way to rock star golf status in the People’s Republic and perhaps even beyond.
Guxin produced a stunning back-nine charge with seven birdies in his last eight holes to snatch the $75,000 Blue Canyon Classic from overnight leader Denwit Boriboonsub on Sunday – and a little more limelight in his homeland.
An eventual eight-under 63 helped Guxin, who started the final round two shots back and in the third from last group, set the clubhouse target at -16. That proved a bar set just a stroke too high for Boriboonsub who finished with a solid 66 but watched an eight-foot birdie attempt on the 54th and final hole agonisingly burn the cup and with it extinguish his chance at a playoff.
It was Guxin’s maiden Asian Development Tour (ADT) and MENA Tour victory and a third pro win after a purple patch last June saw him win twice on the China Tour, at the Lanhi Classic and Xian Classic.
The world No. 484 could yet soar to a career-high OWGR – he has been as low as 435th – and perhaps as high as the fifth-ranked player from China. What is guaranteed is that the US$13,125 payday has propelled the teen to the summit of The ADT Order of Merit with a total of $20,389 through four events.
“This is my first win outside of China which makes me very confident for the future,” Guxin said.
“My big goal is I hope I can get onto the Asian Tour this year. Right now with country exemption it is hard to get into Asian Tour events but ADT I should be able to play all of it…but I look forward to playing in the bigger tournaments.”
Guxin started out quietly on Sunday, a bogey on the par-3 8th halving the gains he’d made with two earlier birdies. But then something clicked on the 11th and almost without knowing it he had birdied six holes on the trot. As his caddie Adam Wang explained afterwards, just about every shot was perfectly struck from the 11th tee onwards.
“On the 11th, something changed, it made me confident and happy but I still can’t believe I made seven birdies… it was magical,” Guxin said of his lowest round as a professional.
“Whatever distance, I saw it get in the hole.”
You had to feel for Boriboonsub. The Thai, also only 18, is a star in waiting as illustrated by his runner-up finish and near $75,000 payday at last December’s Laguna Phuket Championship on the main tour.
Unusually calm under pressure, he flat-lined his way to six birdies. He will, of course, rue a bogey on the 5th but perhaps not as much as not knowing where he stood on the leaderboard playing the final holes. It was a challenge for all 35 players who had started Sunday within five strokes of Boriboonsub.
Witchayapat Sinsrang closed with a 67 to snare solo third place on -13, three shots shy of playing partner Guxin. Sadly Malaysia’s Shahriffuddin Ariffin, playing in the final threesome for the second straight event, had a morning to forget, a closing 75 seeing him slide to a tie for 34th.
In the MENA Tour race within the wider Beautiful Thailand Swing race, Englishman Tom Sloman retained the ‘2020+ Journey to Jordan’ OOM lead, a share of 25th place and a $705 cheque moving him to $28,870 with just the Blue Canyon Open starting Wednesday to play.
Countryman David Langley made up some ground with a share of 19th and will go into the final tournament just $1311 adrift.
Technically anyone down to Bailey Gill in sixth place on $15,887 could still win the J2J OOM and with it a start in one of the Asian Tour’s $1.5 million+ International Series events in 2022. However, Gill would need to win the Blue Canyon Open and hope Sloman, Langley and third-placed David Hague, the latter frustratingly 0-3 in terms of cuts made at the BTS, either fail to make the cut or finish well down the field.
The fairytale rise and rise of Denwit Boriboonsub continues apace with the Thai on the cusp of a maiden Asian Development Tour (ADT) title at storied Blue Canyon Country Club.
The 18-year-old from Pattaya has carded successive 66s on the stunning Lakes layout at the famous Phuket club to sit alone atop the Blue Canyon Classic leaderboard at -10.
Boriboonsub will start the final round of the 54-hole Beautiful Thailand Swing event co-sanctioned by the MENA Tour with a single shot buffer over Malaysia’s in-form Shahriffuddin Ariffin, fellow Thai Witchayapat Sinsrang, India’s Kartik Sharma and Swede Filip Lundell who is incredibly contending despite a scary scooter crash on the eve of the tournament.
India’s Udayan Mane, the first-round leader, carded an even-par 71 on Saturday to remain eight-under for the championship and right in the mix for what shapes as a multi-player shootout for the title. As many as 35 players are within five strokes of Boriboonsub.
The teen pace-setter is among a catalogue of talented young Thais making their way in the Asian Tour eco-system. He sprung to international prominence with a joint runner-up finish behind compatriot Phachara Khongwatmai at the Laguna Phuket Championship on the Asian Tour in December, a result that netted him a healthy US$74,333 payday.
It also helped propel Boriboonsub inside the world’s top-500 for the first time. Indeed the Thai has soared from 1,353rd place in the OWGR to 721st after claiming the All Thailand Golf Tour’s Singha Chiang Mai Open last November, and then 487th after his Laguna title charge. That’s a mighty impressive 866 place jump up the rankings.
He got as low as 471st as recently as another top-five ATGT finish in January and while he is back out to 487th, he’ll be hoping to achieve a career-best ranking come Sunday afternoon.
Boriboonsub’s game is clearly trending in the right direction again. He quickly rebounded from a missed cut in the first of the four BTS events, the Laguna Phuket Challenge to finish -9 and in a share of 7th at the Laguna Phuket Cup which finished last Tuesday. He’s now 29 under par for his last five rounds on the ADT.
“I think it’s the rhythm of my swing and game plan and also my mindset,” Boriboonsub said of his form reversal after mixing six birdies and a bogey.
“I struggled for two months in January and February but it is coming right. Today’s round was pretty solid. I hit a lot of fairways and the irons are sharp.”
Ariffin will be particularly motivated in tomorrow’s final threesome. The 27-year-old Malaysian lost a playoff to Thai Sarun Sirithon last Tuesday after taking a four-stroke lead into the final round of the Laguna Phuket Cup.
But maybe they should all be wary of the injured golfer Lundell who added a gritty 67 to his gutsy 66 in the first round. The Swede is bandaged heavily after falling from his motorised scooter after a meal out in Phuket but is clearly determined not to waste what is just his second cut made in his third ADT start this season.
The cut was made at -3, the lowest of the BTS so far.
When Filip Lundell was violently fish-tailed off his rented motor scooter three days ago, he regained his feet in a relative instant and figured he’d been the pilot in a very lucky escape.
A glance at his shocked pillion passenger and his own suddenly bloodied and stinging hands quickly told another story.
The very connection between the tools of his trade, a set of fancy PXG golf clubs, and short-term financial success were a mess. So too was his right elbow, left forearm and right knee. Shock set in even before he realised his grip on his Asian Development Tour (ADT) and MENA Tours dream was, quite literally, battered and bruised.
“I was kinda in shock, actually, how it happened, everything went so quick,” Lundell said rewinding to the crash.
“I was straight up and I was like, I’m alright and then I look at both of my hands and there was a bit of blood on them and I was like, wow, a bit in shock.”
Fast-forward two days, a quick medical centre patch-up job, a longer hospital visit and plenty of painkillers and antibiotics besides and the 26-year-old miraculously finds himself in contention at the Blue Canyon Classic.
Lundell will start the final round of the Beautiful Thailand Swing event on Sunday just a shot adrift of Thai teen Denwit Boriboonsub on the Lakes course at fabled Blue Canyon Country Club. Perhaps, just maybe, the well-worn cliché warning peers to be “wary the injured golfer” might have a fairytale ending in Phuket.
Lundell added a gritty 67 Saturday to his gutsy opening 66, some feat in the steamy Phuket conditions which soaked his swathe of bandages in sweat. In the opening round, the protection started to come away, necessitating a mid-round re-dressing courtesy of the helpful Blue Canyon staff. And even today his palms in particular were still tender and saw him reel away from several shots in genuine pain.
But given the COVID-19 pandemic, which put his career on ice for the best part of two years, Lundell decided to make his tee time on Friday and take it from there. It’s safe to say it’s turned out well so far for the Swedish pro who splits his time between Falsterbo and Phoenix, Arizona.
“I just did my best [in the opening round], I just had to fight through it and I mean, the painkillers are doing their job as well, so happy about that,” he said.
“Obviously I’m here to compete, trying to do my best and within a few days hopefully I can take these off and play normal again.”
But that is for later. More immediately, Lundell has a shot at an unlikely ADT/MENA Tour breakthrough.
“I shot a nice little 67 today. It’s a good start so far I think and despite the circumstances, I’ll take it. It’s not what I planned out but I’m really happy about the round and looking forward to tomorrow,” he said.
“At the moment I’m nine-under-par which is really nice. I’m really looking forward to probably striking it a little better and maybe making a few more puts. I just want to be in contention coming in down the final nine holes. Take it as it comes and yeah, I’m looking forward to it.”
Lundell insists he’s not a leaderboard watcher which won’t be a problem tomorrow given there is no live scoring. He’ll just have to rely on going low and seeing where he ends up. What is guaranteed is that he’ll be taking the bus home, with or without the trophy.
When Udayan Mane beat a star-studded line-up of countrymen to win the Professional Golf Tour of India’s (PGTI) Tour Championship last December, he figured he’d made the breakthrough that would propel him to the next level. Golf, typically, had other ideas.
The 31-year-old from Pune admits he began to take good golf “for granted” after seeing off names such as Rashid Khan, Veer Ahlawet, Shubhankar Sharma, S.S.P Chawrasia and Gaganjeet Bhullar in Jamshedpur.
But the good times haven’t exactly rolled since his 12th PGTI triumph, at least not until he turned up for the Beautiful Thailand Swing in Phuket co-sanctioned by the Asian Development Tour (ADT) and MENA Tour.
Mane capped an encouraging T-7 performance at the Laguna Phuket Cup on Tuesday with a closing 63 and produced more fireworks on Friday to earn the first-round lead at the $75,000 Blue Canyon.
The world No. 570 scorched around the Lakes layout at Blue Canyon Country Club in a mere 63 strokes, eight under, to edge Thailand’s Chanat Sakulpolphaisan and China’s Chen Guxin for the overnight led by a shot.
Mane’s eight-under score included six birdies and an eagle on the 11th when he drove it to just shy of the green on the par-4 and chipped in. Afterwards, the Indian rewound the clock to the PGTI Tour Championship with the beauty of hindsight.
“It was the biggest win of my career and it did give me confidence but I started to take things for granted and I paid the price,” Mane said.
“I just expected to show up and be in contention, not consciously but the attitude was such. I did struggle, anyone would. Got a wake-up call and started to work at it again.
“Anyway, this is me trying to get to the top again. On the AT, I have OOM winner status on the PGTI. So above country exemptions. On the ADT, same status. The goal this year is to play everything I get into and perform. Simple.”
Sakulpolphaisan, meanwhile, is making a lovely habit of hovering atop or very near the summit of ADT leaderboards.
The 31-year-old Thai made light of a blustery and sometimes wet Phuket morning to card a 64 and secure the clubhouse lead until Mane came in with a wet sail late in the evening.
Like Mane, Sakulpolphaisan’s seven-under circuit included six birdies and a hole-out eagle.
“I’m happy about my game right now,” said Sakulpolphaisan.
Why wouldn’t he be. The world No. 650 from Chonburi has been in sizzling form since the resumption of the ADT, finishing second to American Dodge Kemmer at the Gurugram Challenge in India in late March and barely missing a beat since.
He’s played the 11 possible rounds on this season’s secondary schedule in a combined 37 under par and boasts an eye-catching stroke average of 67.45. Only once has he signed a card of 70 or worse, frustratingly a final round two-over 72 which saw him drop 16 places to a share of T-50 at the Laguna Phuket Cup earlier this week. Before that, he shared ninth place at the Laguna Phuket Challenge and is comfortably positioned in third on the ADT Order of Merit; the top seven at seasons end earn automatic graduation to the main Asian Tour.
“I try to keep it simple with my game plan. One-shot at the time and stay in the present as much as I can,” said Sakulpolphaisan who missed the cut at three Asian Tour events before finishing T-32 at the International Series Thailand and T-23 at the DGC Open before his near-miss at the Gurugram Challenge.
“As of right now, I don’t have any more Asian Tour tournaments on my schedule so I will focus on playing ADT this year. Hopefully, if I’m play well enough I will have a chance for Asian tour next year.”
If he plays anything like he did on Friday, that outcome seems highly likely.
Sakulpolphaisan bolted out of the blocks on the Lakes course with three birdies in his first four holes and quickly made amends for a bogey on the 7th when he holed out from 50 yards on the 9th.
“I was in the fairway and had to hit over the bunker to the hole. That helped me move momentum for my round after my bogey on 7.”
He then added further birdies on the 10th, 15th and 18th to sign for his lowest round of the season thus far.
“I hit it pretty well today so give a lot opportunities for birdie. Overall, I’m happy and enjoy my round.”
Filip Lundell is the best of the MENA Tour continent heading into Saturday’s second round after a miraculous 66 that was achieved despite the Swede playing in a swathe of bandages after a motor scooter accident.
“I accidentally fell from my scooter two days ago. Got scratches that removed some skin on both my hands, elbows and one of my knees,” Lundell said.
“Today I played with bandages on both of my hands so it was a new experience from normal and painful at times. I’m very happy that I can play actually so I’m thankful for that. I saw a lot of eyes on me yesterday and today from different players as they might have wondered what I’ve been up to.
“Luckily, the golf course has a medical staff that came out to help to patch up my hands on my 13th hole as my started to bandages come off. I will get the right treatment I need to recover ASAP and just grind through the pain these coming rounds.”
Dodge Kemmer is confident of retaining his full Asian Tour card this year but is glad to have the Asian Development Tour (ADT) as an “insurance policy” to fall back on if need be.
The 34-year-old American has flown into Phuket for the second half of the ADT’s Beautiful Thailand Swing (BTS) after earning a share of 63rd place at the GS Caltex Maekyung Open, a traditional main tour stop in Seoul, last week.
Kemmer has Q-school graduate status that will get him into most of the Asian Tour’s full-field events in 2022 but is still happy bouncing between the main and development tours to make the most of his time away from home south of San Francisco.
After capturing the ADT’s season-opening Gurugram Challenge in India in March, the Stanford University alumni has been focused on the main tour so missed the first half of the BTS at Laguna Phuket Golf. He surrendered the ADT Order of Merit (OOM) lead to Laguna Phuket Cup champion Sarun Sirithon in the process but will look to regain top spot as one of the favourites for the Blue Canyon Classic starting Friday.
“I felt like I played a lot better than I scored and finished,” Kemmer said of his rounds of 72-72-76-74 to finish 10-over par at Namseoul Country Club.
“It was a really tricky course, it was my first time there, so I’d like to think it was a bit of a learning curve, especially on the greens. But I was happy with how I hit it and how I putted really and just didn’t quite get the scores to match up.”
Learning to adapt to different conditions on the fly is all part of the deal for a touring pro and something Kemmer has gotten better at it after first coming to Asia in 2012.
“Changing grasses and countries and climates, yeah it is a challenge,” he said. “But I’ve been doing it for so long I know it’s a challenge and it’s one of the first things I look at when I get to the courses, you know check the weather, the grass and start chipping as soon as I get there to kind of get in that country’s mode, that grasses mode. It still takes a couple of days but hopefully it’s a bit better than when I started out.”
Kemmer is currently 39th on the Asian Tour OOM but is still searching for a win on the main circuit. He came close in 2017 with a third-place finish at the Bashundhara Bangladesh Open where he banked $22,750, his biggest Asian Tour payday to date.
He believes the ADT win at Classic Golf & Country Club in Gurgaon makes an Asian Tour breakthrough all the more likely.
“The win in India was great for the confidence. I knew I was playing well and had it in there somewhere but struggled a little bit the week before on the Asian Tour [T-49 at the DGC Open] so to play well and win the next week, it really helped the confidence.
“I feel like I can play well anywhere after that. I’ve just got to keep believing that it’s in there despite some bad rounds and bad shots and hopefully it comes out sooner rather than later.”
Kemmer starts the week at Blue Canyon Country Club US$3,037 adrift of Sirithon in the ADT money standings.
The Beautiful Thailand Swing is being co-sanctioned by the MENA Tour which has its own OOM race going down to the wire. With the two Blue Canyon events to decide the 2020+ Journey to Jordan race, Laguna Phuket Challenge winner Tom Sloman is just $562 ahead of fellow Englishman David Langley.
After missing the cut in the last event, David Hague will be looking to rekindle his J2J hopes in this week’s 54-hole event while another Englishman, Bailey Gill, and Frenchman Victor Rui are both still in the OOM hunt with positions inside the top 10.
When Sarun Sirithon airmailed the green with his approach to the par-4 15th at Laguna Golf Phuket on Monday it seemed his epic final-round charge from five strokes adrift at the $75,000 Laguna Phuket Cup had come up short.
The attempted, Phil Mickelson-esque, flop-shot from the fluffy lie that resulted came up well short of the putting surface and soon, after another undercooked chip, the 27-year-old Thai was inwardly cursing a momentum-stalling bogey.
It didn’t help that Malaysia’s Shahriffuddin Ariffin, the overnight leader, had just got up and down from a similar spot with an exquisite pitch to tap-in range to find himself alone again atop the leaderboard, albeit now by just a shot.
When Sirithon then tugged his tee shot slightly left of the green on the next hole, it appeared Ariffin, himself safely on the green, really wasn’t destined to waste the four-stroke advantage he’d started the final day with.
But you don’t wait four years for your shot at professional glory to give up on the dream that easily. Sirithon duly responded to the chips being down by chipping in for an unlikely birdie and was back level with Ariffin when the Malaysian’s birdie try never deviated from its incorrect starting line.
Sirithon and Ariffin then traded pars on the final two holes to finish at -14 and send the Beautiful Thailand Swing event to extra holes.
The Thai had a chance to win in regulation time but couldn’t conjure his birdie attempt from just off the green into the cup, relief for Ariffin who had remained alive with another stunning up and down from beyond the final green.
The duo then twice traded pars on 18 to send the playoff to the 9th tee in a switch up that proved third time lucky for Sirithon.
Ariffin gambled with a risky three wood approach into the par-5 from a hanging lie. With the ball well above his feet, the shot flared way right of the green and took some time to be rediscovered in the lush rough. He did give himself a birdie attempt with a decent pitch but it wasn’t as close as Sirithon little pitch from just off the green. He duly drained his shorter putt for birdie and a breakthrough Asian Development Tour (ADT) victory sealed with a modest little fist-pump.
“I am very happy. This is my first ADT win, my first professional win,” said Sirithon after posing with his cheque for US$13,125.
The Thai admitted afterwards that he had told his caddy if he could chip in on the 16th, he believed it might just be his day. So it proved.
“I’ve tried [practiced] very hard for this win so I feel great today with what this success means for my career.”
Maybe the main Asian Tour soon?
“I want to play better in the ADT first and then the next step is to play in the Asian Tour,” Sirithon said through multi-tasking Asian Tour Senior Tournament Director Wanchai Meechai who doubled as a prizegiving translator.
You had to feel for Ariffin who lead by as many as five strokes in a topsy-turvy final round where he was left to rue a three-hole stretch from the 6th that cost four dropped strokes. The Malaysian battled gamely on the back nine but signed for 70 compared to Sirithon’s closing 65 and will have to wait for a second ADT title.
Tawit Polthai finished solo third a stroke shy of the playoff on -13 while England’s Joe Heraty stormed home with a 62 to head a three-way share of fourth place with the Thai duo of Vanchai Luangnitikul and Ekpharit Wu.