Nilai [NEGERI SEMBILAN]: Newly-turned professional Johnson Poh of Singapore enjoyed an encouraging start when he opened with a five-under-par 66 at the Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) Nilai Springs Championship on Wednesday.
Playing on a sponsor’s invitation, the Singaporean arrived with a spring in his step and promptly delivered by marking his card flawlessly with five birdies at the Nilai Springs Golf and Country Club.
Thailand’s Chanat Sakulpolphaisan trailed the Singaporean by one shot after he returned with a 67 to share second place with local hopeful Mohd Iylia Jamil at the RM200,000 (approx. US$50,000) ADT event, which is also the third last event on the region’s secondary circuit.
England’s Christopher Cannon together with Thailand’s Wisut Artjanawat, Panuwat Muenlek and New Zealand’s Sean Riordan are tied for fourth on matching 68s.
Poh, who joined the play-for-play ranks in June shortly after winning the team and individual silver medals at the South East Asian Games, enjoyed a significant measure of success by lifting his first professional title at a local event in Shenzhen, China earlier this month.
After setting the early pace, the Singaporean is hoping for another shot at glory in his first attempt at the Nilai Springs Golf and Country Club.
“Although this is the first time I’m playing here, I really like the course layout and it suits my eye. I don’t usually start off well, playing only better towards the later rounds. But this time, it’s a good start and I’m hoping to capitalize on it,” said Poh.
Highly regarded as one of Singapore’s most successful amateurs, the 23-year-old started off strongly with birdies in his opening two holes.
He picked up another gain on the par-four nine before cruising home with another two birdies on 13th and 15th.
“I hit it really well today and avoided making any bogeys. That was the plus point. I’ll continue to keep it up tomorrow,” said Poh, whose other career highlights included representing Singapore at the Asian Games in 2010 and 2014 and being crowned Singapore national amateur champion in 2010 and 2014.
Like Poh, Chanat is also hoping to ride on his early good form. The Thai’s best result on the ADT came in Malacca a fortnight ago where he finished tied for sixth and believes he can do better if he continues to stay patient.
“It’s a good start and I’ve to start thinking positively that I can do it. I just need to relax, stay patient and play my own game,” said Chanat.
Leading first round scores (Par-71)
Malaysian unless stated
66- Johnson Poh (SIN)
67- Chanat Sakulpolphaisan (THA), Mohd Iylia Jamil
68- Wisut Artjanawat (THA), Christopher Cannon (ENG), Panuwat Muenlek (THA), Sean Riordan (NZL)
69- Malcolm Kokocinski (SWE), Casey O’TOOLE (USA), Kenneth De Silva, Hsieh Chi-hsien (TPE), Jordan Sherratt (AUS), Hirotaro Naito (JPN)
70- Low Khai Jei (A), Janne Kaske (FIN), Erwan Vieilledent (FRA), Itthipat Buranatanyarat (THA), Natthapong Niyomchon (THA), Nitithorn Thippong (THA), Goh Kun Yang (SIN), Nakarintra Ratanakul (THA), Atthaphon Sriboonkaew (THA)