Double delight for Thais

Kosuke Hamamoto celebrates his SEA Games victory ©Mike Casper|The ClubHouse

KUALA LUMPUR: Thailand’s Kosuke Hamamoto and Atthaya Thititkul swooped the South East Asia (SEA) Games golf men’s and ladies’ individual golds in contrasting fashion, ensuring the favourites will start as the top seeds for the team matchplay event, which starts Friday.

Hamamoto delivered the first blow when he fired a brilliant three-under 68 to beat joint overnight leader Marc Ong (69) of Singapore by one stroke at The MINES Resort & Golf Club.

The Chiangmai native benefited from a two-shot swing in his favour on the par-three 16th when he incredibly holed out from the thick rough as Ong dropped his only bogey of the round.

Hamamoto hung on to his slim advantage with an emphatic par save on the last for a three-day total of 10-under 203. Fellow Thai Kammalas Namuangruk notched a 68 of his own to take the bronze on eight-under 205.

Hamamoto was still in shock after continuing Thailand’s ten-year dominance in the men’s individual event at the biennial Games, which dates back to the Korat Games in 2007.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet but it’s obviously a special win – it’s my first win outside of Thailand and to do it here for my country, means all that more,” said the 18-year-old, who is of Japanese-Thai parentage.

Hamamoto endured a bumpy start as he bogeyed two of his opening three holes but birdies on 2, 4 and 7 saw him turn in level with Ong. His unlikely chip-in birdie from 35 feet on the 16th was probably the shot of the day.

“I didn’t have the best of starts – just felt a little nervous but I got calmer after a few holes. I was level with Marc at the turn but he birdied 12 and 14 to lead by two. I narrowed the gap with a gain on 15 and then got really lucky with my chip on 16th – it probably wasn’t going to stop but somehow hit the flagstick and went in.

“I had a one-shot lead with two to play and I just stayed in the moment and got the job done,” added the Payap University undergraduate.

Ervin Chang was the best-placed Malaysian, signing for a two-under 69 to sit in sole eighth on one-under 212. Danial Durisic came home in joint 14th on six-over 219 with Galven Kendall Green a stroke behind. Chan Tuck Soon finished tied-22nd on 225.

MEN – Leading final results (Par-71)
203 – Kosuke Hamamoto (THA) 67-68-68
204 – Marc Ong (SGP) 68-67-69
205 – Kammalas Namuangruk (THA) 63-74-68
207 – Witchayanon Chothirunrungrueng (THA) 67-72-68, Gregory Foo (SIN) 68-67-72
209 – Sadom Kaewkanjana (THA) 69-73-67
210 – Jonathan Wijono (INA) 71-69-70
212 – ERVIN CHANG 71-72-69
214 – Ruperto Zaragosa III 64-77-73
216 – Hein Sithu (MYA) 73-71-72, Joshua Shou (SGP) 73-70-73

225 – CHAN TUCK SOON 75-71-79

LADIES INDIVIDUAL – Leading final results (Par-71)
199 – Atthaya Thititkul (THA) 70-66-63
206 – Thitapa Pakdeesettakul (THA) 69-67-70
209 – Lois Kaye Go (PHI) 66-74-69
213 – NUR DURRIYAH DAMIAN 69-72-72
214 – LOY HEE YING 75-69-70
215 – Harmie Nicole Constantino (PHI) 74-70-71, ASHLEY LAU JEN WEN 70-72-73
217 – Manushaya Zeemakorn (THA) 71-75-73
220 – Ida Ayu Indira Melati Putri (INA) 76-75-69, Phu Pwint Yati Khi (MYA) 74-76-70, Tatiana Jacqueline Wijaya (INA) 75-72-73

The stage was then set for teen wonder Atthaya and the 14-year-old did not disappoint with a resounding seven-shot victory, thanks to a blistering eight-under closing effort.

Atthaya Thititkul is on a roll, adding the SEA Games gold to her recent successes ©Mike Casper|The ClubHouse

Atthaya, who became the youngest known winner of a professional golf tour event with victory at the Ladies European Tour Thailand Championship last month, returned with six birdies and an eagle to post a 14-under 199.

“I just felt very positive going into today’s round and everything fell in place. My ball-striking gave me a lot of chances and I converted many of them. I’m just very happy to continue my winning form here and do my best for my team,” said Atthaya, who also won the Chinese Taipei Amateur Championship in recent months.

Her team mate Thitapa Pakdeesettakul (70) secured the silver while a two-under 69 saw Filipino Lois Kaye Go race four shots clear of Malaysia’s Nur Durriyah Damian to clinch the bronze medal.

Durriyah kept her hopes of a medal alive with a gutsy performance but two bogeys on the closing stretch dashed her hopes as she settled for a level-par 213 overall. Loy Hee Ying was a shot adrift in fifth while Ashley Lau Jen Wen  took a share of sixth on two-over.