Chan Shih-chang becomes first winner of Asian Tour

Chinese-Taipei’s Chan Shih-chang prevailed after a gripping finish to win the $1 million Blue Canyon Phuket Championship Sunday, Nov. 28, and become the first winner on the Asian Tour following a 20-month hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He shot a final round four-under-par 68 to finish on 18 under par and beat Thailand’s Sadom Kaewkanjana and Joohyung Kim from Korea by one shot.

Sadom fired a 67 while teenager Kim returned 66 ‒ on the iconic Canyon Course at Blue Canyon Country Club.

Chan Shih-chang of Chinese Taipei [Photo credit: Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour]
Chan Shih-chang of Chinese Taipei [Photo credit: Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour]

“It’s impossible, it’s amazing!” Chan, whose last win on the Asian Tour came in the 2016 Asia-Pacific Diamond Cup in Japan, said.

“I am so happy to be back after the problems everyone has had with COVID. My front nine was not very good but an eagle on nine turned things around.”

The 35 year old was paired in the final group with Korean Sihwan Kim and Sadom and despite eagling the ninth he was still three behind Sihwan Kim at the turn.

But the Chinese-Taipei star showed why he is already a winner on Tour by birdieing four holes in a row from the 13th.

He was tied with Sadom on the par-four 18th hole, but while Chan got up and down from the front of the green to make par after holing out from four feet, the Thai player missed the green to the left with his approach and failed to make his 12-footer for par.

“I always enjoy coming to Thailand. I feel very relaxed playing here. Actually, I feel less pressure playing here than playing back home. It’s my second win since my baby boy arrived eight months ago. I guess its baby luck!” he added.

He picked up a cheque for $180,000.

Chan warmed up for this week’s event by finishing second in the Yeangder TPC on home soil last week ‒ an event normally played on the Asian Tour but could not this year because of COVID-19.

Chan has two Asian Tour titles to his name, which both came in 2016 first in the King’s Cup here in Thailand and then the Asia-Pacific Diamond Cup. He is also a six-time winner on the Asian Development Tour ‒ the last of those coming in 2018.

Sadom was looking for his fifth win in two months ‒ he has won four times on the All Thailand Golf Tour, including the Thailand Open ‒ and has now not shot over par in 20 consecutive rounds.

“I tried my best, I came so close,” Sadom, who birdied three on the trot from seven and then birdied 13, 15, and 16 before his problems on 18, where he hit a wayward tee shot left, said.

“It’s disappointing to bogey 18 but I will learn from it and come back stronger next week.”

In contrast, 19-year-old Joohyung Kim birdied 18 to snatch joint second place at the end. He fired seven birdies and one bogey and was chasing his second win on Tour.

Korean Bio Kim (64), Berry Henson from the United States (66), Scott Hend from Australia (67), and Sihwan Kim (70) tied for fourth two off the lead.

Ratchanon Chantananuwat of Thailand [Photo credit: Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour]
Ratchanon Chantananuwat of Thailand [Photo credit: Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour]

Ratchanon Chantananuwat, Thailand’s 14-year-old golf sensation, once again thrived playing in his first Asian Tour event when shot a brilliant 65 to finish in a tie for 15th on 12 under.

Ratchanon secured the low amateur award ‒ for the seventh time in a row in a pro event ‒ after a brilliant round made up of eight birdies and one bogey.

He got off to a sensational start by holing 30-foot putts on the first holes: the first for a par and the second for birdie.

“I am going to be completely honest, if that didn’t happen on one and two, I probably would have finished two over,” the rising star, who on Friday became the third-youngest player to make the cut on the Asian Tour, said.

“Those putts turned my day around. I made all the birdie putts when I had to, but I did still miss quite a lot. I am really happy to win best amateur in my first Asian Tour event.”

He was 11 under par over the weekend and heads into next week’s Laguna Phuket Championship brimming with confidence.

Both Phuket events, called the Asian Tour Phuket Series, boast prize money of US$1million and will be followed by two events being planned in Singapore in January that will bring to a conclusion the 2020-21 season.