Kulim [KEDAH]: Thailand’s Gunn Charoenkul looked close to his best after snatching a share of the opening round lead at the Jimei Korea Kulim Championship on Wednesday.
Despite missing out on a practice round, the four-time ASEAN PGA Tour winner was unfazed as he tamed the challenging greens of Kulim Golf & Country Resort with a brilliant effort of six-under 66.
His effort was matched by compatriot Raththee Sirithanakunsuk and Malaysia’s Arie Irawan, who continued his comeback from injury at the inaugural US$150,000 ASEAN PGA tournament.
The Thai pair of Ronnachai Jamnong and Nattapong Putta are a shot back in tied fourth alongside Malaysian Sukree Othman, who put on a flawless display containing five birdies.
Amateur Minwook Gwon, among the 40 Korean invitationals playing in the tournament, signed for a four-under 68 to lie joint seventh with locals Solomon Emilio Rosidin and Nachimuthu Ramsamy.
Bangkok native Charoenkul may be in the midst of a swing change but it didn’t show as he rolled in eight birdies, off-set by two bogeys.
“It’s been a while since I enjoyed myself on the golf course and I’m very happy for that. Expectations were pretty low given that I didn’t manage a practice round and my swing is still in the works but my putting was on song and I’m feeling pretty good at the moment.
“I was in the game from the start, driving the ball well and kept giving myself chances. Probably a lot more familiar with the tract now and we’ll see how I progress over the next few rounds,” said Charoenkul, who claimed the ASEAN PGA Tour Order of Merit title in 2014 on the back of three victories.
Playing in only his second competitive event since returning from a shoulder injury he suffered in March, Arie was delighted to be in the mix at the top of the leaderboard.
“I’m really pleased with that effort. I learnt a lot about my physical ability last week at the Port Dickson Championship and the shoulder is holding up well, allowing me to strike the ball with a lot of confidence,” shared Arie.
The Malaysian believes that a new putting regime, honed during his convalescent period, is beginning to pay dividends.
“I spent a lot of my off-time working on perfecting my putting stroke and today was just a case of marrying the right speed and the right line.
“The golf course was pretty manageable, you just have so many wedge shots into the soft greens and if I can keeping putting like I did today, anything is possible,” he added.
Leading first round scores (Par-72)
66 – Arie IRAWAN (MAS) , Gunn CHAROENKUL (THA) , Raththee SIRITHANAKUNSUK (THA)
67 – Mohd Sukree OTHMAN (MAS) , Ronnachai JAMNONG (THA) , Nattapong PUTTA (THA)
68 – Minwook GWON (Am) (KOR) , R NACHIMUTHU (MAS) , Solomon Emilio ROSIDIN (MAS)
69 – Deaeok JEONG (KOR) , Krittitee SUNTHORNNON (THA) , Pasavee LERTVILAI (THA) , Hyunyong LEE (KOR) , Pijit PETCHKASEM (THA) , Ben LEONG (MAS) , Idtiphat SILASUWAN (THA) , Jonathan WOO (SIN)