Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand: American Casey O’Toole aims to seal his Asian Development Tour (ADT) Order of Merit crown with a worthy performance at the season-ending Boonchu Ruangkit Championship which starts on Thursday.
The final stop of the ADT 2015 season will see an elite 144-man field battle it out for a share of the 3,000,000 Baht (approx. US$83,000) prize fund at the Rancho Charnvee Resort and Country Club, located at the outskirts of Bangkok.
Thanks to one victory and nine top-10s on the ADT so far this season, O’Toole leads the current money list with a season’s haul of US$55,286.
However, the American is not ready to celebrate yet as his closest rival, Hsieh Chi-hsien of Chinese Taipei still has a chance to pip him to the Merit crown if he wins this week.
Hsieh, who just won on home soil last week, trails O’Toole by about US$12,550 in second place. He can become the ADT Order of Merit winner if he emerges victorious as the winner will take home a prize purse of US$14,546 this week.
“The game feels alright. I have been working on some good stuff over the break. Hopefully it holds up well this week. I am not really thinking about the Order of Merit. This is a great field at a great course this week. I need to just focus on myself and my game,” said the 25-year-old O’Toole, who hails from Alabama.
“It has been a great year so far and I hope I can finish it with a good week this week. Obviously the goal is to earn an Asian Tour card through the ADT. I have done that so now I just want to play well this week and get ready for next year,” added O’Toole.
While O’Toole aims for a final push to seal his Merit crown, the spotlight will also fall on players battling to finish inside the top-five on the money list so as to obtain their Asian Tour cards for the 2016 season.
Sean Riordan of New Zealand, Australian Jordan Sherratt and Japan’s Masaru Takahashi, ranked third, fourth and fifth respectively on the Order of Merit, will be vying to seal their spots inside top-five with good showings at the Boonchu Ruangkit Championship, which is the 28th leg of the ADT schedule this season.
ADT hopefuls will face off a strong local challenge spearheaded by Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, currently ranked 29th and 37th in the world. Veterans Prayad Marksaeng and Thaworn Wiratchant will also feature in the event alongside Prom Meesawat, Thanyakon Khrongpha and defending champion Phiphatphong Naewsuk.
Kiradech, who won the Thongchai Jaidee Foundation event in September, said: “I feel honored to play in Boonchu's event. I told Boonchu earlier that I will come back to support his tournament no matter what other events I have. We are very lucky have players like Boonchu who opens up career pathways for the younger players in the country.”
“This week will be very meaningful for me. I won Thongchai’s event already and I want to win Boonchu’s event as well. I am also hoping to boost my Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) with a victory this week,” added Kiradech.
Nine-time Asian Tour winner Prayad said: “This week is not just a normal event. It’s an event hosted by Boonchu and all Thai professionals are gathered here. This is going to be a fun and perfect event to end the season.”
“Boonchu is a role model for all Thai golfers. He knows everything about golf in Thailand. There are a lot of sponsors supporting this event and that shows how important Boonchu is for the development of golf in Thailand,” added the 49-year-old Thai.
Boonchu, who had the honour of hitting the opening drive when the Asian Tour was launched in 2004 as a players’ body, is hosting his own tournament on the ADT for the second time this season.
With the Olympic Games looming in 2016 where golf will be reintroduced as a medal sport, players in the region could earn their spots in Rio de Janeiro by earning OWGR points through the Asian Tour and ADT.
The ADT is celebrating its sixth season where it has grown immensely from five events in the first year in 2010 to a record 28 tournaments in 2015.