Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand: Thai prodigy Phachara Khongwatmai sensationally grabbed the last Asian Tour card on offer for 2016 after winning his second Asian Development Tour (ADT) title at the season-ending Boonchu Ruangkit Championship.
The 16-year-old closed with a five-under-par 66 and a 22-under-par 262 total for a one-shot victory over leading Thai star Thongchai Jaidee (65) and countrymen Chinnarat Phadungsil (66), who settled for second place at the Baht 3 million (about US$83,000) event.
Overnight leader Natthapong Niyomchon of Thailand battled to a 69 to take fourth place on 264 while compatriot Rattanon Wannasrichan finished a further shot back in fifth following a 68 at the Rancho Charnvee Resort and Country Club.
Phachara took home the winner’s prize purse of US$14,546 courtesy of his win which raised his season’s tally to US$36,678 and propelled him to fifth place on the final ADT Order of Merit, which is the cut-off for players to secure their Asian Tour cards for 2016.
The talented Thai missed out on securing his 2016 Asian Tour card when he finished the season in 64th place on the Merit rankings, just one rung away from the cut-off mark.
“I was not expecting much when I started the round today. I just told myself to try my best out there and if I can win, it will be great.
“Thongchai played really well on the back nine and I knew he was catching up when I was on 16. I got a little nervous and I still managed to keep my game in control,” said Phachara, who also received 14 Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points thanks to his victory.
“This win means a great deal to me. I didn’t expect it. This win helped me break into the top-five on the money list and allowed me to retain my Asian Tour card for next season. I don’t have to go back to the Qualifying School now,” Phachara added.
Phachara won his first ADT title in May, becoming the youngest winner on the Tour at the age of 15. He went on to underline his rising star credentials by securing a spot in The Open 2016 when he finished sixth at the Asian Tour’s Thailand Golf Championship a fortnight ago.
Despite missing the half-way cut, American Casey O’Toole won the 2015 ADT Order of Merit following a brilliant season where he notched one victory and nine other top-10s.
Chinese Taipei’s Hsieh Chi-hsien, who needed to win the Boonchu Ruangkit Championship for a chance to pip O’Toole to the Merit title, settled for second after closing with a 72 for tied-35th position in the final stop of the ADT schedule this season.
As well as O’Toole, Hsieh and Phachara, New Zealander Sean Riordan and Jordan Sherratt of Australia also earned their 2016 playing rights on the Asian Tour after finishing the season in third and fourth positions on the ADT’s final Order of Merit.