Young Kazuki Higa of Japan captures BTI Open title with three-shot victory

Prize Presentation 2Twenty-three-year-old Kazuki Higa of Japan captured his maiden professional title with a wire-to-wire victory at the US$ 60,000 bti Open in Dhaka on Friday.

Higa, playing in only his second season as a professional, was crowned champion at the Kurmitola Golf Club (KGC) after he completed his total domination of the week with a final round score of two-under-70 that gave him a three-shot victory at 17-under-271.

Bangladesh’s Md Zamal Hossain Mollah (70), playing at his home course, also returned a 70 to finish runner-up at 14-under-274 at the event tri-sanctioned by the Asian Development Tour (ADT), Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) and Bangladesh Professional Golfers Association (BPGA).

Kazuki Higa’s (62-70-69-70), who began the final round with a three-shot advantage over Md Zamal Hossain Mollah, had a shaky start as he dropped a bogey on the second. Zamal (68-68-68-70) was quick to seize the opportunity as he came up with birdies on the third and fourth to draw parity with Higa.

Kazuki then regained control with birdies on the fifth and sixth where he made two seven-feet conversions. The match came alive once again when Zamal raised local hopes by getting within one shot of the lead with an eight-foot birdie conversion on the 16th.

However, Higa delivered the knock-out punch with his chip-in birdie on the 17th that put him two ahead and within inches of the finish line. Zamal blew away his last chance on the 18th when he found the trees and as a result bogeyed the hole.

Kazuki, who registered his breakthrough win in only his second event on the ADT, said, “I had an anxious start but picked myself up with birdies on the fifth and sixth. I struggled with my putting today as compared to the first three rounds.   

“The turning point was that chip-in from the rough on the 17th. That almost sealed the title for me. It has to be my best shot of the tournament. I’m glad I produced it just at the right time. I will carry a lot of good memories back from Bangladesh including my first round of 10-under-62 which really set up the tournament for me.

“This win has come right at the start of my professional career and gives me the confidence to go on and scale greater heights. I have the added satisfaction of prevailing over Zamal in his own backyard.”

Local favourite Zamal, a two-time winner at the KGC, recorded his best finish on the PGTI in over three years. The 33-year-old Zamal has now jumped from 22nd place to sixth position on the PGTI Order of Merit.

Zamal said, “I’m proud of my performance this week and I believe my game is slowly getting back to where it was few years back. My driving and putting was spot on through the week but my approach shots and wedge shots let me down especially on the last day.

“However, this result does me a world of good as far as this year’s PGTI season is concerned. I’m now very much in contention in the Order of Merit race.”

Sweden’s Malcolm Kokoconski (70) and Argentina’s Miguel Carballo (70) took a share of third place at 12-under-276. American Josh Salah was a further shot behind in fifth.

The Bangladeshi duo of Md Sajib Ali and Md Siddikur Rahman finished tied sixth at nine-under-279.

Divyanshu Bajaj finished as the best Indian in tied eighth at eight-under-280. The two others who took a share of eighth place included Bangladesh’s Md Nazim and American John Catlin.

Indians M Dharma (seven-under-281) and Udayan Mane (six-under-282), last year’s champion, secured 11th place and tied 12thplace respectively.