Hua Hin, Thailand: Zimbabwean Benjamin Follett-Smith closed with a one-under-par 70 to finish top of the class with a one-shot victory at the Final Stage of the 2020 Asian Tour Qualifying School.
Playing in his third straight Qualifying School following two failures, the 23-year-old led the gruelling 90-hole battle from the second round. On the final day, he carded three birdies against two bogeys for a five-round total of 15-under 340 at the Lake View Resort and Golf Club.
Follett-Smith, a one-time winner on the Sunshine Tour, was among 35 graduates who secured their Asian Tour cards for the 2020 season at the conclusion of the final round over the A&B course.
Reflecting on his success, Follett-Smith said: “It’s amazing to win this. There are so many positives to take away from this week. It’s just one of the biggest for me. This was exactly what I wanted to do.
“I had a tough stretch after winning on the Sunshine Tour last year. But coming here and winning the Asian Tour Qualifying School proves to me that I am actually good enough. It’s a huge thing for me personally.
“I read a book called ‘Fearless Golf’ recently and I think it has kind of put things in perspective for me. I realised I need to start playing for myself and not other people.So I won’t worry about what others are thinking.”
Australian Will Heffernan, who had advanced from the First Stage of Qualifying School last week, made it a memorable two-week run after signing for a 66 to take second place. Like Follett-Smith, it was also a case of third time lucky for Heffernan.
Swede Malcolm Kokocinski regained his Tour card after a disappointing 2019 season. A closing 71 saw him share third place on 343 with 19-year-old Burmese Hein Sithu, who fired a second straight 69.
Other notable graduates include Filipino veteran Antonio Lascuna and Korean hot-shot Kim Bi-o, as well as former Asian Tour champions Scott Strange of Australia, Natipong Srithong of Thailand and Japan’s Masanori Kobayashi.
The graduates featured players from 13 countries – Korea (8), Thailand (6), Australia (5), South Africa (3), Sweden (3), United States and Japan two each and France, India, Ireland, Myanmar, the Philippines and Zimbabwe one apiece.
The 2020 Asian Tour Qualifying School, which comprised of two stages attracted 458 entries from 37 countries.
Players who competed in the 2020 Qualifying School are eligible to play on the Asian Development Tour (ADT), which was launched in 2010 as a gateway to the Asian Tour.