Natthaphat steals a march on pros

Natthaphat steals a march on pros

Phachara impresses at Thailand Open

Chachoengsao: Young Thai amateur Natthaphat Harnchokchaiskul stole the show by opening his campaign with a solid seven-under-par 64 to grab a one-shot lead at the US$300,000 Thailand Open yesterday.

The 19-year-old Natthaphat, one of the 10 amateurs in the field this week, received a late entry into the event on Sunday night but found himself at the top of the leaderboard after firing eight birdies against a bogey at the par-71 Thai Country Club.

Starting from the first, Natthaphat reeled in four straight pars before nailing seven birdies on his next 11 holes. He stumbled with a bogey on 16 but bounced back swiftly with another birdie on 17 before closing with a par to take the lead for the first time in a professional tournament.

"I played better than I expected," said Natthaphat, who is taking part in his first Asian Tour event this week.

"I thought it would be great if I can shoot under-par today. I really didn't expect myself to play so well."

"I hit my approach shots very well today and my putting was good too. My driver wasn't too bad as well. I managed to hit a lot of fairways," added Natthaphat.

Phachara Khongwatmai impressed in his first attempt at tackling the course as he returned with a bogey-free round highlighted by six birdies to take second place at his national Open, which is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the Thailand Golf Association.

"I thought the conditions were pretty difficult out there. The wind was quite strong and the direction changed often, but I had an easy game today because I hit my driver well," said Phachara, who is chasing a breakthrough win on the Asian Tour this week.

"This is my first time playing here at the Thai Country Club so to shoot a 65, I'm really happy," he added.

Asian Tour Qualifying School graduate Aadil Bedi of India also kept the blemishes off his card to card a commendable 66 in his debut appearance at the Thailand Open. The 18-year-old shares third place with Thaya Limpipolpaibul of Thailand and Lee Soo-Min of South Korea.

Singaporean veteran Mardan Mamat and American John Catlin, who hold a combined total of eight Asian Tour titles, were among those bunched in sixth place following matching rounds of 67s in the full-field event.

Defending champion Panuphol Pittayarat had a round to forget after registering a 74 to sit in tied-110th place in the event, which returned to the Thai Country Club for its third straight edition on the Asian Tour this week.

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