China’s only representative in the season-opening Asian Tour International in Thailand, Wu Ashun, finished with a flourish and a 63 on Sunday, a score equaled only by winner James Kamte in the course of the competition, but Wu had left himself too much to do. His sterling effort propelled him up the leaderboard from 30th place to 7th, but it was Kamte who took the trophy by a comfortable margin of two strokes. What a start for the South African in his rookie year on the Asian Tour, lifting his maiden title at the very first time of asking.
Kamte held off a spirited challenge from a determined Tetsuji Hiratsuka of Japan by closing with a five-under 66 for a 16-under-par 268 total to pip the Japanese to the title by two shots.
Overnight leader Hiratsuka, who came into the final round with a slender one shot lead, finished on even-par 71 for a 270 total to take second place while Australia’s Unho Park and Marcus Both together with Thailand’s Prom Meesawat and Philippines’ Juvic Pagunsan all took a share of third place on matching 271s.
It was always going to be a close tussle for the lead at the top of the leaderboard with the quality of play at the Suwan Golf and Country Club at its highest.
Kamte got off quickly with two birdies on his opening two holes. He survived a nasty scare on the fifth hole when he dropped a shot for bogey which allowed Park to move ahead of him at that stage.
However, the South African, who finished fourth at Qualifying school, stormed into contention after the turn with birdies on the 11th, 13th and 16th holes when the others began to falter.
“To win the first tournament as a rookie on the Asian Tour is really a dream come true. I’ve always wanted this to happen and hopefully this is not going to be my last one,” said the rookie, who also took home the winner’s purse of US$47,550.
“I knew I was hitting the ball really well the whole week and I just needed to make the putts. I kept my faith in the lord and everything just went my way,” added Kamte.
After committing a series of errors that resulted in three bogeys on his opening first and second hole as well as the 14th, Hiratsuka lost his grip on his overnight lead.
He tried to stage a late comeback with three birdies in his inward nine but it was not going to be enough to catch Kamte and had to settle for second place.
“Kamte played very well today and I would like to congratulate him. Hopefully, it’ll be my turn the next time,” said Hiratsuka.
Thailand’s Prom Meesawat, who started the day in tied-ninth, got the home crowd going with three successive birdies at the start.
The 24-year-old Thai, who last won an Asian Tour event in 2006 at the SK Telecom Open, made a quick surge with that strong start.
However, bogeys on the sixth and seventh halted his charge momentarily. He recorded another birdie on the ninth before mixing another four birdies with a bogey after the turn to take a share of the third place.
“I think I performed beyond my expectations this week. It’s a big boost for me especially with the long season ahead. The home crowd has been fantastic all week and to have them cheering for me all the time is very heartening,” said Prom.
But the biggest move of the day belonged to Wu Ashun.
Starting the day in tied-30th, Wu’s made a dramatic surge up the leaderboard by firing a total of nine birdies to fashion a superb final round 63.
It would have been even better if not for his wayward shot that found the rough on the 190-yard par-three seven, eventually resulting in a lone bogey. The dropped shot cost him a tie for third place.
“That shot was a real pity. Things might have really changed if I had got a birdie then. But it’s okay, it has been a great week and it can only get better,” said Wu who posted a four-day round score of 67, 71, 71 and 63 to finish on 272.
Source: Asian Tour
(China.org.cn Feburary 11, 2009)