Newcomer Tirawat sneaks ahead

Tirawat Kaewsiribandit
Tirawat Kaewsiribandit

Kuching [SARAWAK]: Thai rookie Tirawat Kaewsiribandit snatched a one-shot halfway lead at the RM250,000 (approximately US$80,000) Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) MNRB Sarawak Championship on Thursday.

The 24-year-old, who turned professional at the start of the year, propelled into contention for a maiden Asian Development Tour (ADT) victory with after a fine four-under-par 68 at the Sarawak Golf Club.

Overnight leader Grant Jackson of England slipped to tied second place following a 70 while another Thai, Pasamet Pogamnerd also carded a second straight 68 to move into the title hunt.

Five-time PGMTour winner Sukree Othman produced a bogey-free 68 for fourth place while Thailand’s Pavit Tangkamolprasert, currently third and countryman Nakarintra Ratanakul carded identical 69s to share fifth place.

Tirawat, who has a two-day total of nine-under-par 135, drove the ball beautifully during his second round as he hit all fairways to give himself a chance at winning for the first time in his fledgling career.

“I played well, especially with the driver which was straight. My putting was also good as I made two important par saves from about five feet at the 15th and 17th holes on my outward nine. To drop only one bogey was very good as this is a tough course with some tricky greens,” said Tirawat.

He hopes to maintain his composure over the next two days to secure a first title on the ADT, which is the pathway to the elite Asian Tour. “I’m happy to be in contention as this is my first year as a professional. I’m still learning how to play well. I think it will be important for me to keep to my game plan. The par fives here are scoreable, so I will try to look for birdies on these holes.”

Jackson was delighted to remain in the title chase despite dropping two bogeys on the par five holes. “Anything under par and staying in contention is good,” said the Thai-based Jackson.

“I started birdie, birdie which was a great start and I felt good. But I lost it a bit on the back nine and scrambled around. Hit some poor shots from no where and got a bit sloppy on the par fives (ninth and 15th holes) for those bogeys.”

Sukree produced a flawless card as he sank birdies on the second, ninth, 10th and 11th holes to surge into contention. “I was consistent and didn’t make any mistakes. It’s always nice to be bogey-free,” said the Malaysian.

“Everything worked well, especially my iron play as two of the birdies were gimmie birdies while the other two were from about five feet. I hit some really good shots out there.”

Leading second round scores (Malaysian unless stated):
135 – Tirawat Kaewsiribandit (THA) 67-68
136 – Grant Jackson (ENG) 66-70, Pasamet Pogamnerd (THA) 68-68
137 – Sukree Othman 69-68
138 – Pavit Tangkamolprasert (THA) 69-69, Nakarintra Ratanakul (THA) 69-69
139 – Michael Moore (AUS) 68- 71, Arie Irawan 71-69, Khor Kheng Hwai 69-70, Mohd Iylia Jamil 71-69, Wisut Artjanawat (THA) 70-70
141 – Zen Dharmaratne 70-71, Shaaban Hussin 68-73, Koh Deng Shan (SIN) 69-72