Thailand’s Watcharsi Tracheuntong quite literally towered over the rest to pluck top honours in the Boys U21 section of the Faldo Series Asia Cambodia golf championship at the Sir Nick Faldo-designed Angkor Golf Resort in Siem Reap yesterday.
Light framed and distinctively taller than most golfers of his age at 195cm, Watcharsi slackened a bit over his first round par-72 to finish with a one-over 73 in the final round for an aggregate 145 to emerge as not only the winner of his class, but also the overall winner of the series.
His two-round effort tied with that of Malaysia’s Aaerishna Shahsthy, who won the boys U16 category with a one-under 71 and two-over 74. However the Thai, who has a 10 handicap, got the nod ahead of the Malaysian on a better back nine score worked out under the universally followed countback system.
Watcharsi’s closest rival but a friend and Thai team-mate on the tour, Poovadal Leeartharn who plays with a handicap of 4, could only repeat his first round 73 for a two round total of 146 to take the runner-up berth.
Watcharsi fired an eagle on the difficult par-five 13th while poaching three more birdies, but his six bogeys somewhat smudged his score-card. But in the end he could safely hold his pal at bay.
Asked by the Post whether the difference in handicap was playing out in his mind, a rather shy Watcharsi said: “I wanted to play my best and was not keen on looking at what my rival was doing.”
Seksan Suwannapura, the Secretary of the Thai Students Golf Union who was also playing the role of a coach on tour for the Thai contingent of eight players appearing in Siem Reap, noted that this was Watcharsi’s first tournament success.
“This boy is in fact very tall for a golfer but he is very serious about his career in golf. He doesn’t go to school, he gets his education at home so that he can get more time for golf and that is his family's decision,” added Seksan, whose daughter Thidapa is a pro on the LPGA tour.
Playing in the same category, Cambodia’s only entrant Thong Sakhmony finished in the ruck with a disappointing 19-over in each of the two rounds for an overall 182.
While Watcharsi was munching his lunch and a memorable finish with relish in the dining hall, Shahsthy, a ninth-grade student now studying in Singapore, was well on course to take the overall honours having shot an impressive one-under 71, the best score of the opening round on Saturday.
He was going along well until he lapsed into a couple of crucial errors and edged over par to eventually finish at 74, a score that was good enough for him to win his division. Thailand’s Thanaphum Khanchitworakun with a 75 and 72 finished second behind the Malaysian.
It was a virtual dead-heat in the Girls U21 category between Andrea Au of Hong Kong and Onkanok Soisuwan of Thailand. Both finished with an identical 75 and 76 for a two-round total of 151. But Andrea’s better showing in the second round back nine netted her the title.
Incidentally, the organisers merged the Girls U16 contestants with that of U21 and decided to allot two places from this group to the Asia Grand Final at Mission Hills in Shenzhen, China, next year. Andrea Au and Onkanok Soisuwan duly got those tickets to China along with Watcharsi and Shahsthy.
The Angkor Golf Resort’s director of golf, David Baron, who conducted a grassroots clinic earlier in the day, presented the trophies to the winners. On Saturday Tony Maloney, an Australian teaching pro now living in Malaysia, conducted a players clinic.
Both these programes are part of every Faldo Series event.