Sarun’s Epic Fightback at Laguna Golf Phuket

Sarun Sirithon captured his maiden Asian Development Tour title at Laguna Golf Phuket. Picture by Asian Development Tour.

Phuket, Thailand: When Sarun Sirithon airmailed the green with his approach to the par-four 15th at Laguna Golf Phuket it seemed his epic final-round charge from five strokes adrift at the US$75,000 Laguna Phuket Cup had come up short.

The attempted flop-shot from the fluffy lie that resulted came up well short of the putting surface. After another under-cooked chip, the 27-year-old Thai was inwardly cursing a momentum-stalling bogey.

It didn’t help that Malaysian Shahriffuddin Ariffin, the overnight leader, had just got up and down from a similar spot with an exquisite pitch to tap-in range to find himself alone again atop the leaderboard, albeit now by just one shot.

When Sarun then tugged his tee shot slightly left of the green on the next hole, it appeared Ariffin, himself safely on the green, really wasn’t destined to waste the four-stroke advantage he’d started the final day with.

But you don’t wait four years for your shot at professional glory to give up on the dream that easily. Sarun duly responded to the chips being down by chipping in for an unlikely birdie and was back level with Ariffin when the Malaysian’s birdie try never deviated from its incorrect starting line.

Sarun and Ariffin then traded pars on the final two holes to finish at 14-under and send the Beautiful Thailand Swing event to extra holes.

The Thai had a chance to win in regulation time but couldn’t conjure his birdie attempt from just off the green into the cup, relief for Ariffin who had remained alive with another stunning up and down from beyond the final green.

The duo then twice traded pars on 18 to send the play-off to the ninth tee in a switch up that proved third time lucky for Sarun.

Ariffin gambled with a risky three-wood approach into the par-five from a hanging lie. With the ball well above his feet, the shot flared way right of the green and took some time to be discovered in the lush rough. He did give himself a birdie attempt with a decent pitch but it wasn’t as close as Sarun’s little pitch from just off the green. He duly drained his shorter putt for birdie and a breakthrough Asian Development Tour (ADT) victory was sealed with a modest fist-pump.

“I am very happy. This is my first ADT win … my first professional win,” said Sarun after posing with his cheque for US$13,125.

The Thai admitted that he had told his caddie if he could chip in on the 16th, he believed it might just be his day. So it proved.

“I’ve tried [practiced] very hard for this win so I feel great today with what this success means for my career.” Maybe the main Asian Tour soon?

“I want to play better in the ADT first and then the next step is to play in the Asian Tour,” Sarun said through multi-tasking Asian Tour Senior Tournament Director Wanchai Meechai who doubled as a prize-giving translator.

You had to feel for Ariffin who led by as many as five strokes in a topsy-turvy final round where he was left to rue a three-hole stretch from the sixth that cost four dropped strokes. The Malaysian battled gamely on the back nine but signed for 70 compared to Sarun’s closing 65 and will have to wait for a second ADT title.

Tawit Polthai finished solo third, one stroke shy of the play-off while England’s Joe Heraty stormed home with a 62 to head a three-way share of fourth place with the Thai duo of Vanchai Luangnitikul and Ekpharit Wu.

Laguna Golf Phuket is a Facility Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation.

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