Thailand’s Prima Thammaraks claimed her first professional victory today at the RACV Gold Coast Challenge in dramatic fashion, defeating Australian Sarah Jane Smith by a single shot.
The Thai player had started the day tied for the lead at 6 under par with her 18 year old compatriot Paannarat Thanapolboonyaras, and was quick off the blocks making birdies at the 3rd, 5th and 6th holes to quickly move into a 4 shot lead over the rest of the field.
A misjudgement in the wind at the par 4 7th hole resulted in her first bogey of the round, which was followed up by a double bogey at the 8th hole after driving into a fairway bunker from the tee. Another bogey at the par 5 9th hole saw Thammaraks’ lead disappear to just one shot.
Queenslander Sarah Jane Smith, who had started the day at even par and 6 shots off the lead was quietly making her move up the leaderboard, with birdies at the 1st and 3rd holes before making a run of 10 straight pars from the 4th to the 13th hole. Three shots off the lead and knowing holes were quickly running out the quiet achiever of Australian golf put the foot down on the homeward stretch, making birdies at both of the par threes on the back nine the 14th and 16th, before holing out solidly from just over a metre on the final green for a flawless 5 under par round of 68 to set the lead in the clubhouse at -5.
Meanwhile Thammaraks had steadied the ship with a birdie at the 12th hole, and after pars at each of the next 5 holes found herself standing on the 18th tee needing a birdie to win.
Her drive found the middle of the fairway on the reachable par 5, and after debating with her caddy about whether to take on the difficult 2nd shot or to layup she pulled out her trusty 3 wood and left it in a perfect spot just 5 metres short of the green.
The 24-year -old Thai proceeded to play a poor chip and run and left herself with a putt from 6 metres for victory, which she confidently holed before the celebrations began.
The victory secures Thammaraks a start in next week’s Oates Victorian Open and also the upcoming SPS Handa Women’s Australian Open. With only conditional status on the US LPGA Tour in 2017 the Bangkok resident had been planning to try to pre-qualify for both events, now she can plan to play in both events.
“This is a huge win for me. I had been in this position a couple of time in my career and haven’t been able to finish it off. I was so nervous on the last putt but I just though come on, give it a good chance and then it went in. I am so excited to get that first win and now to be able to play here the next 2 weeks”
“The only downside to this is that it is my mother’s birthday on the 16th which is the first day in Adelaide and if I did not qualify I would have been heading home to see her, I am sure she will understand” she laughed
Sarah Jane Smith finished alone in second place at 5 under par, while impressive Gold Coast youngster Rebecca Kay finished in third place at 2 under par. Fellow Queenslander Katherine Kirk finished alone in fourth place.
Co-leader heading into today’s final round Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras shot a disappointing final round of 78, to finish alone in 5th place at 1 under par.
Final results and prizemoney
The ALPG Tour now heads to 13th Beach in Victoria for the Oates Vic Open from 9-12th February.
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