Phuket, Thailand: Napat Paramacharoenroj’s reign as Faldo Series Thailand Championship – South winner has been ended by national squad player Mark Vanchai Luangnitikul after a thrilling duel at Laguna Golf Phuket.
But Napat’s hopes of becoming only the third two-time winner of the Faldo Series Asia Grand Final crown are still alive. Thanks to his second-place finish in the seventh leg of the 2017-18 Faldo Series Asia season, Napat – nicknamed ‘Toy’ – has guaranteed himself a return trip to Laguna Lăng Cô in Danang, Central Vietnam, in March, 2018 for the 12th edition of the Grand Final.
In an absorbing 36-hole contest in Phuket, Napat vied for top spot with fellow British International School Phuket student Vanchai and Bangkok-based Conor Kelly.
Napat it was who held the upper hand after an immaculately compiled opening six-under-par 65, three shots ahead of Vanchai and five clear of Kelly.
When 16-year-old Napat extended his advantage following birdies at the fourth and fifth in the final round, his rivals’ prospects appeared poor at best.
However, there was a significant shift in momentum at the par-five seventh, where a rare wayward shot from Napat came to rest behind a tree trunk. From there he was only able to chip out sideways en route to a bogey-six while both his playing partners converted short birdie putts.
A two-putt birdie for Vanchai at the par-four 10th, where he powered a massive drive to the edge of the green, reduced Napat’s lead to one. Clearly shaken, Napat then suffered a streak of three successive bogeys from the 12th which left him two behind Vanchai with four holes remaining and Kelly hot on his heels.
It was then Vanchai’s turn to experience a wobble, his tee-shot to the par-three 16th finding a water hazard. He rescued a bogey but now led by only one from Napat and three from Kelly.
It was the dog-leg right 17th that was to prove pivotal with Vanchai eking out a par while Napat and Kelly both bogeyed. With a two-shot cushion, Vanchai was able to afford the luxury of a three-putt bogey on the final hole.
Winner of the Singha Thailand Amateur Match Play Championship in April and a member of his country’s triumphant Lion City Cup team in Indonesia last month, Vanchai signed off in Phuket with a two-under 69. His 137 aggregate was one in front of Napat and three ahead of Kelly.
Paul Wilson, Laguna Golf Assistant Vice President/Group Golf Director, said: “We were fortunate to witness such high quality golf which emphasises, once more, the tremendous strength in depth that there is in junior golf across Thailand.
“We are excited that both ‘Toy’ and Mark will now be heading to the Grand Final in Vietnam, where they will have the chance to spend time with Sir Nick and test their skills against many of the best young players from around the region.”
Also heading to the Grand Final is Parinyawee Panno, who topped the standings in the Girls’ Under-16 category at Laguna Golf Phuket, the sister club of the Faldo-designed Laguna Golf Lăng Cô.
Meanwhile, Wilson said he was confident that the Faldo Series Thailand Championship – South will go from strength to strength. “As well as competitors from Phuket, it was encouraging that we had entrants from Bangkok and Singapore. It was also wonderful to see the enthusiasm of the children who took part in the Under-12 segment. We hope they’ll continuing developing their games … and go on to become Faldo Series champions.”
This year marks the second time that Thailand has hosted two Faldo Series Asia qualifiers with Weerawish Narkprachar having upstaged some of his country’s leading juniors to emerge triumphant in the 12th edition of the Faldo Series Thailand Championship (North) at Plutaluang Navy Golf Course, south of Pattaya, in May.
The 2017-18 Faldo Series Asia season is supported by The R&A and endorsed by the Asian Tour and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation. The International Junior Golf Academy is a partner of the Faldo Series.
As well as two events in China, India and Thailand, championships are being staged in Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Chinese-Taipei, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.
Laguna Golf Phuket is a Golf Course Facility Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation.