Pipatpong glides to early Port Dickson lead

Kemarol Baharin ©Arep Kulal|PGM
Kemarol Baharin ©Arep Kulal|PGM

Port Dickson [NEGERI SEMBILAN]: Thailand’s Pipatpong Naewsuk bagged a couple of eagles in an opening seven-under-par 64 to grab a two-shot lead at the Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) ASEAN PGA PD Championship on Wednesday.

Pipatpong, currently fifth on the 2014 Road to Sabah Masters rankings, carded eagles on the par-four ninth and the par-five last to go along with four birdies at Port Dickson Golf and Country Club.

He heads countryman Varut Chomchalam (66) by two strokes with Kwanchai Tannin, last season’s ASEAN PGA Tour number one, and Malaysia’s Kemarol Baharin a further shot behind after shooting 67s.

Pipatpong, a double gold medallist at the 2007 SEA Games where he edged celebrated compatriot Kiradech Aphibarnrat into silver medal position in the individual event, is finding his feet again in professional golf after completing two years of Army service and finished runner-up at the Singha Chiangmai Open on the ASEAN PGA Tour in early August.

He opened brightly with birdies on the third and sixth holes and ended the front nine with a flourish by holing his second shot at the par-four ninth.

Pipatpong bogeyed the par-three 13th before turning on the after burners and streaking to a birdie-birdie-eagle finish.

Kwanchai, searching for the form that netted him two ASEAN PGA Tour titles last season, was just one-under-par after 15 holes but also saved his best scoring to last with three straight birdies to end the round.

Thai teenager Phachara Khongwatmai, the youngest-ever winner of a professional event, had a day to forget as he carded a three-over-par 74.

Phachara, making his way in the professional ranks after winning last year’s Singha Hua Hin Open as a 14-year-old amateur, shot two bogeys and a triple bogey in the opening five holes before clawing back strokes with three birdies-in-a row from the eighth hole.

Leading first round scores [Par-71]:
64 – Pipatpong Naewsuk (THA)
66 – Varut Chomchalam (THA)
67 – Kwanchai Tannin (THA), Kemarol Baharin
68 – Kenneth De Silva, Airil Rizman Zahari, Ratchapol Jantavara (THA)
69 – Mohd Azman Basharudin, Lim Eng Seng, Wilson Choo Zhe Ming, Mohd Sukree Othman, Fadzlan Faruk, Nicholas Pua, M Sasidaran, Chan Song Wongluekiet (THA)