ASIAN GOLF INDUSTRY FEDERATION

Screen Star Kim Emulates Simulator Success

Kim Hong-taek celebrates his maiden Asian Tour win.

Seoul, Korea: Kim Hong-taek showed he is just as good on the golf course as he is playing simulator golf when he beat Thailand’s Chonlatit Chuenboonngam in a sudden-death play-off to win the GS Caltex Maekyung Open.

Kim, a star on the golf simulator circuit on Korea’s GTour – his nickname is King of the Screen thanks to 12 wins – drained a knee-knocking four-foot par putt on the first extra hole to claim one of Korea’s most coveted titles at Namseoul Country Club on a overcast day with persistent rain that left everyone drenched.

The pair finished tied in regulation play on 10-under after Kim, who started the day three behind overnight leader Lee Jung-hwan, stormed through on the back nine with three birdies in a row from 13 and another on 17.

His two-under-par 69 gave him the clubhouse lead before Chonlatit, playing in the last group and bidding to become the first foreigner to win the event since American Mark Calcavecchia in 2004, courageously holed par-saving putts on 17 and 18, both from about eight feet, to force the 43rd staging of the event into overtime.

In the play-off, held on the demanding par-four 18th and with the rain constant, Kim found the fairway off the tee, but his Thai opponent landed in the large bunker on the left of the fairway. Chonlatit’s second shot clipped the lip of the trap and left him with a 50-yard approach shot while Kim’s second finished just off the back of the green.

The result was more or less decided when Chonlatit’s third landed 25 feet short. His par putt also struggled to reach the hole and after he holed his four-footer for a bogey Kim had virtually the same putt for par to secure the win.

Joked 30-year-old Kim: “There was a misunderstanding that I was only good at simulator golf. I solved the misunderstanding today.

“I think simulator golf has actually been very helpful. Competing in championships in simulator golf has helped relieve tension.”

He earned a cheque for US$221,231 for what is his first victory on the Asian Tour and third on the Korean PGA Tour. He also joins an elite list of Korean golfers who have won this title, including Kim Bi-o, Park Sang-hyun, Cho Sang-ho and Kim Jong-duk.

Chonlatit, who led at the half-way mark following a stunning 62 – the lowest round of the week – was trying to become the first Thai to have his name inscribed on the trophy.

He had a one-shot lead with three to play but made an expensive bogey on the par-five 16th. “It was very hard today,” said the 25-year-old, who was attempting to win for the first time on the Asian Tour.

“Everything was hard. I was constantly trying to keep my grips dry, but I’m still very happy with the tournament. I had some good luck in the other rounds holing out shots and chips.”

He also lost in a sudden-death play-off against Australian Wade Ormsby at the International Series Thailand at the beginning of 2023. To the surprise of many it has taken him this long to once again be in contention.

He said: “I changed my swing a little bit, and I have worked very hard on it. I feel like my game is back now.”

Canadian Richard T. Lee closed with a 71 to finish in third place, two short of the play-off. Since the Asian Tour returned from the Covid-19 pandemic, Lee has finished second twice and third on three occasions.

The Asian Tour takes a short break next before returning to Korea for the Kolon Korea Open at Woo Jeung Hills Country Club from June 20-23. American Steve Han Seung-su is the defending champion.

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