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Golf: Thailand’s young ‘Coconut’ starts with sizzling 63 in Singapore

Panuphol ‘Coconut’ Pittayarat, 21, set the pace at Laguna National with a nine-under 63. Photo: Asian Tour.

Panuphol ‘Coconut’ Pittayarat, 21, set the pace at Laguna National with a nine-under 63. Photo: Asian Tour.

May 1, 2015: Thai youngster Panuphol ‘Coconut’ Pittayarat defied recent poor form to shoot a sparkling nine-under-par 63 at Laguna National Golf and Country Club to set the first-round pace at The Championship on Thursday.


Singapore’s own Quincy Quek carded a 64 to share second spot with Korea’s Kim Byung-jun, American-Korean David Lipsky and Scotland’s Scott Jamieson at the US$1.5 million event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour.


Thailand’s Arnond Vongvanij ran up a double-bogey five on the eighth, his penultimate hole, but still shot a 65 to lie sixth with Sri Lanka’s Mithun Perera, Sweden’s Kristoffer Broberg and Chile’s Felipe Aguilar.


Panuphol, who missed the cut in his last three starts on the Asian Tour, breathed new life into his season with a flawless 63 that would have been the course record if not for the preferred lie ruling in place this week.


The opening round was delayed by an hour due to lightning and rain, but when it resumed, Panuphol quickly reached the turn with a brilliant 32. The 21-year-old, nicknamed ‘Coconut’ by his parents, continued to set the scorching pace with another five birdies for an inward 31.


“It was a good day out there. The weather is good and I holed a lot of putts where some of them were really unexpected,” Panuphol said. “I gave myself lots of chances to score and I’m very happy with how I played. I didn’t see it coming, but it did come and I’m feeling good about my game right now.”


Quek, 27, spearheaded the local charge with a round to remember where he needed only 20 putts to sign for an impressive 64.


“I could not have started any better. The weather has been very kind to us, especially after the rain delay this morning. The course is perfect and the greens are rolling well, so that’s where I picked up most of my birdies,” Quek said. “I holed quite a few long putts. I was just looking at my statistics today. I had 20 putts, which I have never got before. It is quite a crazy one for me, but we still have three more days to go.”


Quek is now looking forward to earn his breakthrough on the Asian Tour, having won his maiden professional victory on the secondary Asian Development Tour in the Philippines in 2012.


“The putter was working well for me. I gave myself chances by hitting the ball closer than I normally do. Playing well in the first round has definitely put me in a good position going forward,” he said.


Arnond was poised to challenge Panuphol for the lead when he blitzed The Masters Course to reach nine-under with two holes left to play. However, the 25-year-old Thai paid the price for an unlucky break on the par-three eight when a double-bogey marred his card and forced him to slip two shots behind his compatriot.


“I got an unlucky break on the eighth unfortunately,” Arnond said. “I dropped two shots there when it should be an easy par, but overall I’m hitting it good and putting well so I will just try and do what I did today and hopefully get a better result tomorrow.”


Lipsky burst into the scene by winning his maiden title in Cambodia after topping the class at the Asian Tour Qualifying School in 2012. The 25-year-old, who finished top-10 in the Philippines in March, is again showing glimpses of his winning form, which he attributed to the friendly rivalry he enjoys with Panuphol.


“I played with Panuphol and it was good fun, even though he beat me by one. I think we just fed off each other. Honestly, we were just trying to beat each other and that was all we were thinking about,” Lipsky said. “The course is not very long and it’s in soft condition. The greens are looking good and I think it’s important to make birdies this week. I will have to make more birdies in the next three rounds if I want to stay where I am at right now.”


A total of 18 players will have to return at 7.40am (local time) to complete their first round after play was suspended due to fading light.


The Championship (Round 1), Laguna National Golf Club, Singapore

63 – Panuphol PITTAYARAT (THA).

64 – Scott JAMIESON (SCO), David LIPSKY (USA), KIM Byung-jun (KOR), Quincy QUEK (SIN).

65 – Mithun PERERA (SRI), Kristoffer BROBERG (SWE), Felipe AGUILAR (CHI), Arnond VONGVANIJ (THA).

66 – Rafa CABRERA-BELLO (ESP), Prom MEESAWAT (THA), BAEK Seuk-hyun (KOR), Scott BARR (AUS), MOON Kyong-jun (KOR), Gregory BOURDY (FRA).

67 – Boonchu RUANGKIT (THA), Anirban LAHIRI (IND), Graeme STORM (ENG), Chan KIM (USA), Chinnarat PHADUNGSIL (THA), Scott HEND (AUS), Anders HANSEN (DEN), Jeev Milkha SINGH (IND), Victor RIU (FRA).


Selected scores

68 – Nicholas FUNG (MAS)

71 – Mardan MAMAT (SIN), Thaworn WIRATCHANT (THA)


Source: Asian Tour

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