Thai teen Danthai's big day at World Classic Championship
After stalking the leaders for three days, Thai teen makes a successful final push
When Danthai Boonma teed off on Thursday at Laguna National, he did not have any expectations.
Playing in his maiden professional season, he knew there were far more seasoned pros in the field eyeing the top prize at the US$750,000 ($1.07 million) World Classic Championship.
Malaysia's Nick Fung, Laguna stalwart Scott Barr and a host of Indians, as well as a talented bunch of his compatriots, including veteran Thaworn Wiratchant, were the ones favoured to emerge at the top of the leaderboard after four rounds.
By the end of the first day, Thai Danthai was three strokes behind the leaders after a one-over 72 on a notoriously difficult course.
By the end of the final round yesterday, the 19-year-old stood with the trophy in his hands and a cheque of US$135,000 in his pocket.
With face buried in his hands, Danthai said: "All I wanted to do is play a shot at a time and I did not think I could win this tournament.
"I wasn't too sure what was going on.
"The first day I was not playing very well and this morning I was not playing that great in the first eight holes and ended with a bogey.
"But I was playing better than yesterday because there was no wind.
"The biggest difficulty I faced was trying to keep my focus because the course is very difficult."
All week long, Danthai stayed steady and was well within sight of the leaders.
With the wind in his sails, he came within a stroke of Barr, American Berry Henson and countryman Chinnarat Phadungsil after the second round.
He was two behind leaders Fung and Bangladesh's Siddikur Rahman after the third round and, looking ahead to the final 18 holes, all Danthai could think about was staying clear of trouble.
On the front nine yesterday, he slipped up once, with a bogey on the par-four eighth.
Then the birdies came - at the 10th, 12th and 13th - and, with Siddikur and India's S Chikka faltering, Danthai suddenly found himself neck and neck with Fung.
When Fung bogeyed the 16th, the young Thai had victory within his grasp.
One behind, the Malaysian failed to conjure up a birdie in his final two holes. Danthai, who was watching from behind the Nest - the Laguna clubhouse which looks out at the 18th hole - almost couldn't believe he had just pulled off the biggest win of his career.
Fung revealed he paid the price at the 18th when he ignored his caddie's advice on the line to take for a possible birdie that would have forced a play-off.
"He told me the correct line to take and I should have trusted him," said the Malaysian.
"But I took another line and missed the putt. So I finished second and accepted it. I tried not to put too much pressure on myself and I'm not disappointed with how I played.
"This may not be my week but it's okay, this is golf. What's yours will be yours one day."
For Danthai, the victory has boosted his confidence as he looks to climb the Asian Tour Order of Merit.
He is also eyeing a spot on the Asian team that will play Europe in the EurAsia Cup in January.
"I will try my best in the remaining tournaments and hopefully finish inside the top 25 on the Order of Merit," he said.
"I haven't played well since earning my Asian Tour card earlier this year, so I am really happy with this win.
"I would love to qualify for the EurAsia Cup and, with this win, I should have a good chance."
282: Danthai Boonma 72-69-72-69.
283: Nicholas Fung 74-67-70-72.
284: Wang Jeung Hun 69-75-71-69.
285: Sam Brazel 69-74-72-70.
286: Jazz Janewattananond 71-71-77-67, Prom Meesawat 73-73-70-70, Chapchai Nirat 76-69-69-72.
287: Scott Barr 69-71-76-71, Danny Chia 73-72-70-72.
- The writer is a freelancer.