Home comforts for Leong

Ben Leong ©Paul Lakatos|Asian Tour

Kota Kinabalu [SABAH]: Local hero Ben Leong completed a wire-to-wire victory on home soil after closing with a three-under-par 69 to win by three shots at the Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) Sabah Championship on Saturday.

The 32-year-old Sabahan, who started the round with a two-shot edge, dropped a shot on the par-five second hole but recovered brilliantly with four birdies on his way home to cap a winning total of 11-under-par 277 at the Sabah Golf and Country Club.

American rookie Sam Gillis returned with a 69 to take second place on his own, marking his best finish so far in his first season on the region’s secondary circuit at the RM225,000 (approximately US$58,000) Asian Development Tour (ADT) event.

Japan’s Shinichi Mizuno closed with three straight birdies for a 72 to grab a share of third place on 283 alongside American Greg Moss, who posted a 67. Finland’s Janne Kaske settled a further two shots back in fifth following a 67.

Leading final results (Par-72)
277 – BEN LEONG (MAS) 69-69-70-69
280 – Sam Gillis (USA) 72-71-67-70
283 – Greg Moss (USA) 72-72-72-67, Shinichi Mizuno (JPN) 71-70-70-72
285 – Janne Kaske (FIN) 73-70-75-67
287 – Johnson Poh (SGP) 74-68-74-71, Brett Munson (USA) 73-73-70-71
288 – Jeremy Wendelken (USA) 72-70-73 -73
289 – Donlaphatchai Niyomchon (THA) 73- 74-73-69, Nitithorn Thippong (THA) 77-70- 73-69
290 – Jesse Schutte (USA) 74-72-71-73, Oskar Arvidsson (SWE) 78-68-69-75

Leong, who could have played at the Asian Tour’s TAKE Solutions Masters in Bengaluru this week, chose to play at home as he wants to spend more time with his new-born son Zac.

It has proven to be a wise decision for Leong, who notched his second ADT title and became only the third player to reach double-digit wins on the burgeoning domestic circuit.

“I didn’t feel much pressure at all. I was just focused on my game and wasn’t even concerned about what was happening on the leaderboard. It’s definitely sweeter to have a win on home ground with my wife watching me and my father supporting me on the bag,” said Leong, whose first ADT win came at the 2017 PGM Northport Glenmarie Championship.

“I played some solid golf today and made no mistakes. I’m just glad to have found something in my game as I start preparing to play in the Shinhan Donghae Open on the Asian Tour next month. I’m feeling more confident now and I can’t wait to bring this confidence over to the rest of the season.” added Leong.

Leong would take home a winner’s prize purse of US$10,096 and receive six Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points, thanks to his victory. The top-six players and ties will also earn OWGR points based on a sliding scale.

Gillis, playing in his first season on the ADT after missing the grade at the Qualifying School in January, was disappointed to have missed out on the victory but took pride in his runner-up finish, which was his best finish this season since moving to Asia in January.

“I’m happy that my game has been progressing and that I’m shooting scores I know I am capable of. I just didn’t quite have it today. Ben played solid today after a slow start and I would have had to go really low if I wanted to beat him,” said Gillis, who mixed his card with four birdies and two bogeys.