Nakhon Ratchasima (Thailand), Dec 27 (IANS) Thai prodigy Phachara Khongwatmai sensationally grabbed the last Asian Tour card on offer for 2016 after winning his second Asian Development Tour (ADT) title at the season-ending Boonchu Ruangkit Championship here on Sunday.
The 16-year-old closed with a five-under 66 for a 22-under 262 total that gave him a one-shot victory over leading Thai star Thongchai Jaidee (65) and countrymen Chinnarat Phadungsil (66), who settled for second place.
Overnight leader Natthapong Niyomchon of Thailand battled to a 69 to take the fourth place on 264 while compatriot Rattanon Wannasrichan finished a further shot back in fifth following a 68 at the Rancho Charnvee Resort and Country Club.
Phachara took home the winner’s prize purse of $14,546 courtesy of his win which raised his season’s tally to $36,678 and propelled him to fifth place on the final ADT Order of Merit, which is the cut-off for players to secure their Asian Tour cards for 2016.
The talented Thai had earlier missed out on securing his 2016 Asian Tour card through the region’s premier Tour when he finished the season in 64th place on the Merit rankings, just one rung away from the cut-off mark.
Starting the round with a one-shot deficit, Phachara got off to a hot start with two opening birdies and three in a row from the seventh hole before trading three birdies against three bogeys on his way home.
Phachara came into prominence when he won his first ADT title in May, becoming the youngest winner on the region’s burgeoning Tour at the age of 15. He went on to underline his rising star credentials by securing a spot in The Open 2016 when he finished sixth at the Asian Tour’s Thailand Golf Championship a fortnight ago.
Despite missing the halfway cut, American Casey O’Toole showed that he had done enough to win the 2015 ADT Order of Merit following a brilliant season where he notched one victory and nine other top-10s.
Chinese Taipei’s Hsieh Chi-hsien, who needed to win the Boonchu Ruangkit Championship for a chance to pip O’Toole to the Merit title, settled for second after closing with a 72 for tied 35th position in the final stop of the ADT schedule this season.
Apart from O’Toole, Hsieh and Phachara, New Zealander Sean Riordan and Jordan Sherratt of Australia also earned their 2016 playing rights on the Asian Tour after finishing the season in third and fourth positions on the ADT’s final Order of Merit.