Miri [SARAWAK]: Shakhawat Sohel of Bangladesh sensationally eagled the first extra hole to win his maiden Asian Development Tour (ADT) title at the Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) Miri Championship on Saturday.
Shakhawat returned with a solid five-under-par 67 in regulation play to tie with rising star Nitithorn Thippong (70) of Thailand on seven-under-par 281 at the (RM225,000 approximately US$58,000) ADT event.
When they returned to the 18th hole for the play-off, it was a cool and composed Shakhawat who produced the shot of the day when he chipped-in for eagle from 40 yards to pip Nitithorn, who had earlier set up a 12-foot birdie putt from the bunker.
The victory was a dream come true for Shakhawat, who erased the heartbreak of losing in a play-off on the ADT in Malaysia in July. With this triumph, he became the second Bangladeshi to win on the ADT after Siddikur Rahman.
LEADING FINAL RESULTS (Par-72)
281 – Shakhawat Sohel (BAN) 72-73-69-67, Nitithorn Thippong (THA) 70-69-72-70
Shakhawat wins with an eagle on the first play-off hole
282 – Janne Kaske (FIN) 74-70-71-67, Han Lee (USA) 68-72-71-71, Poom Pattaropong (THA) 71-71-74-66, Donlaphatchai Niyomchon (THA) 74-72-68-68
283 – Mathiam Keyser (RSA) 72-72-69-70
284 – Kazuki Higa (JPN) 72-71-70-71, Elki Kow (INA) 69-79-69-67
285 – BEN LEONG 71-72-73-69
“I’m feeling great. I can’t express what I’m feeling. This is my first victory in an international tournament and I’m very proud and happy,” said the 33-year-old, who won US$9,503 and earned six Official World Golf Ranking points (OWGR).
“When I saw my eagle chip disappearing into the hole, I was just too excited. I remember screaming and celebrating. I think I threw my cap as well,” he laughed.
“The feeling was different when I lost in a play-off a few months ago. I was very sad but the experience helped me today. I was thinking a lot then and rushing my shots but today I’m more relaxed. More importantly, I was focussed on what I wanted which was to win,” said Shakhawat.
He was three shots off the pace at the start of the final 18 holes but he took full advantage of a solid short game which resulted in a flawless round highlighted by five birdies.
Shakhawat’s victory is an inspiring underdog story as he started his sojourn in golf as a caddy at the Kurmitola Golf Club where he would play 18 holes with a single 5-iron. But what he lacked in the golf bag, he made up with talent and his strong will to succeed.
“It is a tough life for us,” said Shakhawat. “We play without sponsors and as a junior we rely on club members and donations. I remember using a five-iron to chip and putt,” he laughed.
“I had help to finally receive a full golf bag thanks to my sister and a Japanese member. It was a proud moment when I represented my national team because we played in tournaments around the world. Now I’m a winner on the ADT.”
Shakhawat is in position to earn a 2019 Asian Tour card after moving to sixth place on the Order of Merit. He needs to stay inside the top-seven on the final rankings to stand a chance to join his good friend Siddikur Rahman on the region’s premier Tour.