Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia: Thailand’s Namchok Tantipokhakul displayed nerves of steel to claim an emotional victory at the Warisan Harta Sabah Masters.
The 28-year-old Chonburi native nursed his overnight advantage to close with a second successive even-par 71 at the Sutera Harbour Golf & Country Club.
Namchok totalled seven-under-par 277 to finish two strokes clear of American Casey O’Toole, who made a final round charge with a three-under 68.
Thai youngster Nirun Sae-ueng dropped costly shots in the closing stages to return with a 74, settling for joint third alongside fellow Thai Piya Swangarunporn (71) on 282.
Kemarol Baharin rounded off his campaign as the top-placed local in the US$100,000 tournament jointly sanctioned by the ASEAN PGA and the Asian Development Tour, finishing sole seventh on one-over 285.
But the spotlight was on Namchok, whose victory not only ended a two-year title drought but propelled him to second on the ASEAN PGA Order of Merit, securing him a start at the Asian Tour’s SMBC Singapore Open at the end of the month.
“I’m really relieved. It has been a really long time since I picked up a win and I felt a little nervous at the start of the round. My ball-striking was really good today but my putting let me down and I left a lot of birdies out there.
“I didn’t think even-par would be enough to win because my playing partners (O’Toole and Nirun) gave me a good fight but I stayed solid under pressure,” said Namchok, who was flawless except for a bogey on 14th.
He noted that his sharp short game was crucial to his victory, especially when he converted a delightful chip-in to save par at the 15th.
“My short game really came through this week. On the 15th, I knew I needed to pull off something really special to preserve my two-shot cushion after dropping the bogey on the previous hole. I managed to get clean contact with the ball and as it sank into the hole, I knew the win was mine to claim.
“I lost my card on the Japan Golf Tour last year and this win is important because it is a real morale-booster. Getting into the SMBC Singapore Open and playing well there will hopefully open more doors for me in 2016,” added Namchok.