Battling Sangchai moves to the top

Sangchai Kaewcharoen ©Mike Casper|The ClubHouse

Kota Kinabalu [ SABAH]: Rising Thai teenager Sangchai Kaewcharoen overcame punishing conditions to snatch the halfway lead at the Malaysian Amateur Open on Friday.

The Bangkok native added a solid round of two-under 69 to his opening 70 to edge a shot clear of compatriot Sadom Kaewkanjana (70) at the wind-swept Nexus Golf Resort Karambunai.

Sangchai was four-under through 16 holes before conceding back-to-back bogeys at the end to sign for a three-under 139 overall in the 115th edition of the prestigious amateur championship.

Yashas Chandra, India’s third ranked golfer, returned with a one-under 70 to take sole third on 141 ahead of 2016 runner-up Witchayanon Chothirungrungrueng (71) of Thailand and Chinese Taipei’s Wen Chen-Hsiang (73).

Malaysia’s best placed player was South East Asia (SEA) Games trainee Galven Kendall Green, who carded a much-improved 69 to sit in a tie for 13th on four-over 146.

Sangchai got off to a quiet start, making the turn with an even-par 36 but rode his luck with four birdies inside six holes. But the long hours and soaring temperatures took its toll on the 17-year-old, who dropped two shots coming in.

“I was pretty lucky today. I wasn’t driving the ball very well today but I got a few lucky breaks when the ball bounced back from the rough into the fairway. I managed to put those close for birdie putts.

“On the last hole, I had a bad lie and my second shot found the water. But fortunately, I was still able to play a shot from the edge of the pond and salvaged a bogey. Wasn’t the perfect ending to a round but I’m happy with that effort,” shared the Thai.

Having previously won the Sarawak International Junior Golf Championship in 2014, Sangchai is hoping to end his trip to Sabah on a high note.

“I felt I managed the course and conditions well, eventhough I was tiring towards the end. I just need to give myself a lot more birdie chances to have a go at the championship,” added the 2016 Singapore Amateur Open runner-up.

Galven Kendall Green ©Mike Casper|The ClubHouse

Malaysian number one Green was pleased to bounce back as he traded three birdies against a bogey to make the weekend within touching distance of the leading pack.

“I felt I was a lot more focused today and didn’t allow the delays and heat to get to me. I hit better shots overall and that set-up better scoring chances, which I converted a few. I’d think I can improve on that and just give a look on the weekend,” noted the three-time national champion.

A total of 63 players advanced into the final two rounds with the cut coming at 17-over 159.

Conducted by the Malaysian Golf Association in conjunction with the Sabah Golf Association, the 115th edition of the Malaysian Amateur Open is jointly supported by the Sabah State Government, National Sports Council, Jebsen & Jessen, Kurnia Insurance, Letz Travel, CrestLink, Srixon Sports Asia, Titoni, Titleist, 100Plus, Nexus Golf Resort Karambunai and Nexus Resort & Spa Karambunai.

Leading second round scores (Par-71)
Malaysian unless stated
139 – Sangchai Kaewcharoen (THA) 70-69
140 – Sadom Kaewkanjana (THA) 70-70
141 – Yashas Chandra (IND) 71-70
142 – Witchayanon Chothirungrungrueng (THA) 71-71, Wen Chen-Hsiang (TPE) 69-73
143 – Sun Yi Lu (TPE) 73-70, Kosuke Hamamoto (THA) 72-71, Joshua Ho (SIN) 70-73
144 – Naraajie Emerald Ramadhanputra (INA) 74-70, Yi-Tong Chen (TPE) 73-71
145 – Yuan-Wei Lin (TPE) 74-71, Lucius Toh (SIN) 72-73,
146 – GALVEN KENDALL GREEN 77-69, Low Wee Jin (SIN) 76-70, Marc Ong (SIN) 73-73, Dong Hun Jung (KOR) 70-76