SINGAPORE: Thailand reaffirmed its regional dominance with a four-gold sweep in the golf programme of the 28th South East Asia (SEA) Games, which concluded yesterday at Sentosa Golf Cub.
Natipong Srithong proved talismanic for the War Elephants as he parred the first extra hole to beat Singapore’s Johnson Poh, ending the Republic’s quest for an elusive golfing golf on home soil.
The final-year law student from Thammasat University had missed an eagle putt on the closing hole of regulation play for an one-under 71 effort, finishing alongside Poh, who carded a final round best of four-under 68, on one-under 287. Another Thai Tawan Pongphun (71) finished a shot back to pick up the bronze medal.
The defending champions successfully held on to their title in the team event with an aggregate of 859 with Singapore (867) and Indonesia (883) coming in second and third respectively.
Suthavee Chanachai made a golden debut at the Games as she topped the ladies’ individual leaderboard with a convincing seven-under 209 overall, thanks to classy rounds of 71, 69 and 69.
Indonesia’s Rivani Adelia Sihotang prevailed in a three-way play-off to pick up the silver ahead of local favourite Koh Sock Hwee. Thailand’s Pajaree Anannarukarn crashed out on the second extra hole after the trio finished level on 220 at the end of a gruelling three-day contest at the Serapong tract.
With all three of their players finishing inside the top-five, Thailand stormed to win the team event with 426 ahead of Indonesia and Singapore, who accumulated 446 and 452 respectively to take the silver and bronze medals.
It was the first time since Nakhon Ratchasima in 2007 that the Thai completed a clean sweep in the golfing programme.
On the domestic front, a listless display saw the national golf squad return home empty handed for the first time in a decade.
Playing in her third SEA Games, Nur Durriyah Damian finished as the best-placed Malaysian in the field with a seventh placing in the ladies’ division with a three-day haul of eight-over 224.
Durriyah together with Loy Hee Ying (13-over) and Genevieve Ling I-Rynn (15-over) combined to finish fourth in the women’s team event, missing out on the bronze medal by a single stroke.
The young Malaysian men’s team comprising of Daeng Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman (nine-over), Galven Kendall Green (nine-over), Bryan Teoh Wiyang (15-over) and Amir Nazrin Jailani (17-over) failed to live up to their pre-tournament hype, settling for fifth placing in the men’s team with a four-day haul of 930.
None of the boys – part of the project squad for the upcoming SEA Games in 2017 – managed to finish inside the top-10 of the men’s individual leaderboard.
Speaking after the conclusion of event, national team manager Low Teck San stated that poor decision-making skills and a general lack of sharpness in-and-around the greens proved costly for the team.
“We brought a good team to Singapore but the outcome is very disappointing. The boys and girls had the skill set to compete at this level but they couldn’t buy the putts this week and that was the real difference. A few costly mistakes daily accumulated towards the end.
“The speed and firmness of the greens here at the Serapong Course was a real challenge for our team. They found it difficult to adapt their game plans as there are very few golf courses back home which have similar greens running at this competitive level for them to practice on,” said Low.
He added that despite the setback, the Malaysian Golf Association (MGA) felt that it was right decision to expose a group of youngsters as part of their preparation to challenge for the golf.
“This team is the building block for the future. Let’s not make excuses for this failure but instead look at how we can nurture and support this group of youngster for the next Games in two years. The experience of playing at this level cannot be substituted with any amount of practice or tournament play. We were let down by our short game and decision-making on the golf course and hopefully, we can address that short-comings,” he noted.