Lachlan the last man standing

Lachlan Barker of Australia with the Malaysian Amateur Open trophy ©Mike Casper|The ClubHouse

Rawang [SELANGOR]: Unheralded Lachlan Barker held his nerve to remain the last man standing at the closely-contested 114th Malaysian Amateur Open presented by Vascory AG and ICE Mobile.

The 17-year-old from Adelaide parred the second extra hole to defeat joint halfway leader Witchayanon Chothirunrungrueng of Thailand on Sunday, becoming the third Australian to win the championship in four editions.

Five off the pace at the start of the final round, Barker overcame a hesitant start to post a one-under 71 in regulation play at Templer Park Country Club.

His clubhouse target of one-under 287 was matched by Witchayanon, who was coasting towards victory until a costly bogey on the tough par-five 15th saw the Thai teenager sign for a closing effort of even-par 72.

Overnight leader Rupert Zaragosa II had a round to forget as he returned with a poor five-over 77 to settle for third placing on even-par 216.

The Filipino’s two-shot advantage was wiped out early on when he found the water hazard on the holes four and eight and a mixed card of two birdies and three bogeys on the back nine fell just short off a place in the shootout.

Singapore’s Abdul Hadi Uda Thith carded a 70 to share fourth with Chinese Taipei’s Yuan Wei Lin (73) on 289.

Malaysia’s best finisher was national player Amir Nazrin Jailani, who recorded rounds of 73, 73, 72 and 73 to finish tied eighth on three-over 291.

Leading final results (Par-72) >
Malaysian unless stated
287 – Lachlan Barker 72-74-70-71, Witchayanon Chothirunrungrueng (THA) 72-69-74-72
Barker wins on the second extra hole
288 – Ruperto Zaragosa III (PHI) 71-70-70-77
289 – Abdul Hadi Uda Thith (SIN) 72-75-72-70, Yuan-Wei Lin (TPE) 72-72-72-73
290 – Wei-Hsuan Wang (TPE) 78-70-70-72, Josh Armstrong (AUS) 73-76-68-73
291 – Gregory Foo (SIN) 74-75-75-67, Kevin Caesario Akhbar (INA) 72-76-72-71, Edgar Oh (SIN) 74-75-69-73, AMIR NAZRIN JAILANI 73-73-72-73, Naarajie Emerald Ramadhanputra (INA) 69-73-71-78
292 – Napong Sriparsit (THA) 77-69-75-71, Ryan Monsalve (PHI) 74-72-74-72
294 – ERVIN CHANG 70-73-78-73, CHAN TUCK SOON 73-71-73-77
295 – Chi Huang (TPE) 71-73-74-77

Barker proved an unlikely winner as he looked to have blown any slim chance he held after starting with bogeys on the third and sixth hole. But three birdies from the ninth – none better than on the 18th when he drained a 15-footer – set him up for an exciting afternoon.

“Going into today, I was five off the lead and I thought if I do something amazing, I might have a chance but I was two-over early into my round and it wasn’t looking promising to be honest.

“But things turned around for the better, started hitting better shots and making a couple more putts. In the end, the cards fell my way in a play-off for once, which is great and I’m happy for that,” said Barker, who had no inkling that the leading pack had dropped off the pace.

“I didn’t realise how closely matched we were until I reached the clubhouse and it was probably better for me because it allowed me to play my natural game and I didn’t feel any pressure.”

The reigning South Australian Amateur winner came close to winning it on the first play-off hole when missed a birdie attempt from ten feet before pulling off an audacious chip from the edge of the green to within inches of the pin on the second time of asking. That put the pressure on Witchayanon, who failed to convert two putts from inside seven feet.

“It’s funny playing play-offs. Anything can happen from one shot to another, the momentum swings so quickly. I had a good putt for birdie on the first and I thought it was in and then on the next hole, I missed the green with my approach shot but somehow that turned the pressure on him with that chip.

“This is by far my biggest win yet, so I’m mighty pleased. The course was wet, playing really long and the greens were a real challenge, so to emerge the last man standing in this true test of golf is a great accomplisment,” quipped the champion.

Witchayanon Chothirunrungrueng had to settle for second place
Witchayanon Chothirunrungrueng had to settle for second place

Witchayanon admitted that pressure got to him as he curled his birdie putt past the pin on the second play-off hole before missing the resulting par putt.

“Pretty disappointing to finish second after being in contention from the start off the week. Didn’t do too much wrong today other than leaving one or two birdies on the back nine, which would have given me the win outright. I was confident going into the play-off but mis-read my birdie putt on the second hole and the pressure got to me on the resulting attempt,” said the 19-year-old.

In another development, tournament custodians, the Malaysian Golf Association, announced that Sabah will host the 115th edition next year, in line with a 2015 decision to rotate the championship between West and East Malaysia to provide ample opportunities for clubs on both sides of the pond to host the prestigious event.