Singapore: Desmond Kim and Edina Szalkai etched their names into Laguna National’s history books with eye-catching performances to win the 2019 Club Championships for men and women respectively.
Their triumphs may have come in contrasting fashion, but the sense of accomplishment for both Kim and Szalkai was tangible.
In a nail-biting finale, Kim held his nerve to deny Bryan Lim a fifth Men’s Club Championship title with a brilliant birdie at the third hole of a sudden-death play-off.
For her part, Szalkai was a model of consistency as she enjoyed a rather less stressful final-day passage en route to her first Ladies Club Championship crown.
Also in celebratory mood were Poh Yee Tiong (Men’s Intermediate Division winner) and Thomas Lim (Men’s Novice Division winner).
To cap a memorable event that attracted a record field of 67 Members, Jay Jhaveri and Sue Yap Soh Mooi created a notable slice of history by topping the standings in the Senior Championship categories. It was the first time Senior Divisions had been included, adding a new dimension to what is the highlight on the Club’s annual calendar.
“Our thanks to all Members who participated and special congratulations to Desmond and Edina. Both are worthy and deserving Club champions,” said Mark Bates, Director of Golf Operations at Laguna National, a Golf Course Facility Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation.
“Two years ago we had less than 30 entries. We said then that it was our aim to build the prestige of the Club Championship. The fact that we had almost 70 entries this year is an encouraging sign – as was the response to the decision to add a Senior Championship Division for the men and ladies,” added Bates.
Five years after claiming the Club Championship when aged 15, Kim made a welcome return to the winner’s circle.
Older and wiser he may be than when he lifted the trophy in 2014, but this success was all the more satisfying given that he’s spent the past two years in National Service, severely restricting his golfing.
“Golf has had to take a back seat,” said Kim, a former member of the National Development Squad.
Heading into the final round over the Masters Course, Kim was tied at the top with Lim on 156 – three strokes in front of 2007 Club Championship winner Dustin Wilburn and promising youngster Jayaditya Saluja.
With two holes remaining, Kim trailed by two, but a par on 17 and a birdie at 18, where he holed a 15-foot right-to-left putt, meant he matched Lim’s closing 77 and left the duo locked together on 233 after 54 holes.
Returning to the 18th for the play-off, the hole was twice halved in pars. At the third time of asking, it was Kim who prevailed after producing a timely masterstroke.
With 108 metres to the flag, Kim’s 58-degree wedge approach landed 15 feet beyond the pin and spun back to within tap-in distance. When Lim’s 25-foot birdie attempt failed to drop, the contest was over.
“I didn’t make a single birdie in the last round while Desmond holed everything on those last few holes,” reflected a rueful Lim, who also lost out to Kim in the Club’s 36-hole Match Play Championship final in 2016.
As was the case with the men, the final-round of the Ladies Championship teed-off with two players in a share of the lead – Szalkai and Wendy Lim, both of whom were seeking their first title after finishing as runners-up in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
Setting out from the 10th, it was Szalkai who drew first blood with a birdie-two at the short 12th. Turning in 38, she extended her advantage to four shots with nine holes to play.
Szalkai then stuttered briefly as Lim cut the deficit to just one after 11 holes. From there, though, Szalkai reasserted her authority, covering the final seven holes in even-par to bound clear and add the Club Championship crown to the Ladies Match Play Championship title she won for the first time late last year.