Boom! Rookie Poom surges into clubhouse lead at queen’s cup

Samui, Thailand: Thai newcomer Poom Saksansin snatched a surprise clubhouse lead in the rain-hit first round of the Queen’s Cup following a superb five-under-par 66 on Thursday.

The 21-year-old rookie ensured a memorable debut at the US$300,000 Asian Tour event by firing five birdies for a blemish-free card at the Santiburi Samui Country Club to lead by two shots from countrymen Chinnarat Phadungsil, the 2009 champion, Varut Chomchalam and Donlaphatchai Niyomchon.

A weather suspension of one hour and 25 minutes meant that 27 players will return on Friday morning to complete their rounds, including India’s Manav Jaini who was three-under through 15 holes when play was halted due to darkness.

Canadian Richard T. Lee, the 2013 rookie of the year, Filipino Antonio Lascuna, Thai veteran Boonchu Ruangkit, Englishman Steve Lewton and Bangladeshi Zamal Hossain were amongst those bunched on 69 at the Queen’s Cup, which is sponsored by Bangkok Airways and Sports Authority of Thailand.

The soft-spoken Poom rode on a hot putter as all his birdies came from 15 feet and beyond. With winds swirling around the tricky par-71 track, the young Thai scrambled beautifully to save pars on four occasions.

“I hit my tee shots good and it gave me the opportunity to make a good score. My putting was also very good. Conditions were difficult as the winds kept changing. I decided what club I would play and just hit the shot. I committed myself to every shot,” said Poom.

After helping the Thai national amateur team lift the gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar last year, Poom joined the play-for-pay ranks as he wanted to support his own career. He has made three cuts this season, with a tied 15th finish at the Solaire Open in Manila being his best outing to date.

“I turned professional as I wanted to earn money. I didn’t want to ask my mum for money anymore as she’s supported my career,” he said.

“I always play good in the first round as I’m always trying to make the cut. But this week, I’m thinking that if I miss the cut, it won’t matter. In other tournaments, I have finished 50th or 60th which gets me nothing. I want to finish higher. My thinking is a bit different this week,” added Poom.

The 25-year-old Chinnarat, a three-time winner on the Asian Tour, put himself in position to end a five-year title drought with a round that included an eagle, three birdies and two bogeys. He started strongly with a chip-in birdie on 10 before going on to birdie 16 and eagle 18 from 15 feet.

But with winds picking up on his inward nine, the stocky Chinnarat dropped two shots coming home. “I hit a lot of greens but missed many putts on my front nine before making that birdie and eagle to turn in four under. Then on the first hole, I had a three putt, which is an easy bogey. On the back nine, I didn’t hit it too good. It was very windy before the rain came in,” he said.

Lee was delighted with his 69 which included two closing birdies as he kept up his chase for a second title of the season after his breakthrough triumph at the Solaire Open in Manila earlier in the year.

“”The (weather) delay allowed me to get in some food and some water in me and I finished it off with two birdies. It’s definitely nice to finish strong,” said Lee. “It’s a challenging course. All the players are frustrated by the winds and the slopes on the course. Putts are not easy to make out there but all you have to do is hit good drives and hit your second shots well. It’s the same as with other courses.”

Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Anirban Lahiri of India, who got married last week, struggled to a 75 after carding a triple bogey seven, three bogeys and two birdies.

Scores after round 1 of the Queen's Cup Bangkok Airways - SAT Samui Golf 2014 being played at the par 71, 6823 Yards Santiburi Samui GC course (a- denotes amateur):

66 - Poom SAKSANSIN (THA).
68 - Donlaphatchai NIYOMCHON (THA), Varut CHOMCHALAM (THA), Chinnarat PHADUNGSIL (THA).
69 - Zamal HOSSAIN (BAN), Rattanon WANNASRICHAN (THA), Stephen LEWTON (ENG), Martin ROMINGER (SUI), Antonio LASCUNA (PHI), Richard T. LEE (CAN), Boonchu RUANGKIT (THA), BAEK Seuk-hyun (KOR).
70 - Akinori TANI (JPN), Porameth SONTHIRATI (THA), Shankar DAS (IND), Suppakorn UTHAIPAT (THA), Bryce EASTON (RSA), MO Joong-kyung (KOR).