Kuala Lumpur: Teenage professional Kanphanitnan Muangkhumsakul secured a coveted start at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia next month after battling to a hard-fought victory in the regional qualifier on Wednesday.
The 15-year-old from Khon Kaen, Thailand returned with a closing one-over 73 to edge past national amateur Dianne Luke (75) by a single stroke at the Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club.
Overnight leader Sarfina Seretharan saw her hopes of making a second appearance at the US$2 million LPGA Tour tournament dashed after closing with a poor seven-over 78 to finish three strokes adrift in third.
Trailing by one coming into the final round, Muangkhumsakul, who goes by the nickname Mind, looked solid as she took a three-shot lead after 16 holes but a pair of closing bogeys set up a nervous finish.
Speaking after the win, a jubilant Muangkhumsakul, who turned professional last year, said: “I am very excited and happy to win the qualifier and look forward to coming back to Malaysia for my first LPGA event,” said the current Singha-SAT Thai LPGA Championship Order of Merit leader.
“It was quite a difficult tournament and I didn’t make it any easy for myself with the way I finished today. Hopefully, I can work harder in the next few weeks in preparation for what would be the highlight of my young career,” said the youngster, who has four domestic professional titles to her belt.
Leading final round scores (Malaysian unless stated):
149 – Kanphanitnan Muangkhumsakul (THA) 76-73
(qualifies for Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia)
150 – Dianne Luke 75-75
152 – Sarfina Seretharan 74-78
155 – Aditya Ashok (IND) 80-75
157 – Winnie Ng 79-78
158 – Cindy Lee-Pridgen 80-78
159 – Kelie Kan Kah Yan 79-80
161 – Hillferah Tan 76-85
163 – Nurul Syahirah Nasir 83-80
167 – Shareen Rena Lai 83-84
174 – Jessica Ang (SIN) 88-86
177 – Janice Ling 89-88