Kulim, KEDAH: A scintillating course record nine-under 63 propelled Thailand’s Gunn Charoenkul to a runaway victory at the Jimei Korea Kulim Championship on Saturday.
Charoenkul looked invincible on the greens, turning in a bogey-less card of nine birdies to clinch a four-shot victory over compatriot Poom Saksansin (69) and Malaysian Ben Leong (70) at the Kulim Golf & Country Resort.
The 23-year-old from Bangkok totalled 20-under-268 for his fifth ASEAN PGA victory, equalling countryman Wisut Artjanawat’s record for most wins on the decade-old Tour.
Former Order of Merit champion Kwanchai Tannin fired a six-under 66 to finish sole fourth on 273 with the trio of Filipino Jhonnel Ababa (68), Deaeok Jeong of Korea (69) and Thailand’s Nattapong Putta (69) a further shot back in the US$150,000 ASEAN PGA tournament.
In what proved to be a tightly-contested first nine, Charoenkul erased his three-shot overnight deficit with four birdies to make the turn level with Saksansin and Leong.
With his playing partners dropping shots, the determined Thai rallied ahead with four successive birdies from the 12th before another gain on 17 sealed what proved to be a sensational victory.
“I didn’t expect a low score today but got off to a brilliant start with two birdies in three holes but to return with nine birdies in total, that’s pretty unbelievable,” said Charoenkul, who picked up a cheque for US$24,300.
“I was striking the ball much better than I had hoped this week. I was at the range after every round, trying to get use to my new swing regime and I think the hard work paid off.
“Poom and Ben left some birdies out there today but I had a stretch on the back nine when my focus level was really high and I was able to just pull away with a run of birdies,” he added.
Charoenkul enjoyed a brilliant season in 2014 when he won thrice on the ASEAN PGA Tour en-route to claiming the Order of Merit race.
But an injury setback in 2015 and indifferent form meant he has endured a quiet two seasons since his victory at the Singha Hua Hin Open in July that year.
“After my spell on the sidelines, it’s good to be back and playing good, competitive golf once again. I have been in contention a number of times since but the victories have always slipped by me. I had hoped that a swing change will reinvigorate my career and I’m reaping the rewards a bit earlier than expected,” noted Charoenkul.
Leading final results (Par-72)
268 – Gunn Charoenkul (THA) 66-69-70-63
272 – Poom Saksasin (THA) 70-65-68-69, Ben Leong (MAS) 69-67-66-70
273 – Kwanchai Tannin (THA) 70-68-69-66
275 – Jhonnel Ababa (PHI) 71-68-68-68, Deaeok Jeong (KOR) 69-69-68-69, Nattapong Putta (THA) 67-72-67-69
276 – Rufino Bayron (PHI) 70-71-66-69
277 – Jay Bayron (PHI) 73-65-69-70, Rattanon Wannasrichan (THA) 75-64-68-70
278 – Nakarinta Ratanakul (THA) 72-70-68-68, Pijit Petchkasem (THA) 69-70-69-70, Raththee Sirithanakunsuk (THA) 66-73-69-70