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Kuala Lumpur: Panuphol Pittayarat showed he was a star in the making after the Thai teenager missed out on victory at the Worldwide Holdings Selangor Masters over the weekend.
The 18-year-old Panuphol finished runner-up to champion Joonas Granberg of Finland at Kota Permai Golf and Country Club but there was no doubt the boy from Bangkok would be challenging for more honours on the Asian Tour in the near future.
His career biggest cheque of US$41,690 will go a long way in helping him to secure full playing rights on the Asian Tour next season as he rose from 121st to 32nd place on the latest Order of Merit. “I’m not spending any of my winnings. It’s going into the bank,” said Panuphol, who was back on the practice range in Bangkok on Monday honing his game. 
Nicknamed “Coconut” - where Panuphol’s other sibblings are nicknamed “Lemon” and “Tamarine” – he proved to be a tough cookie despite the pressure of leading into the third and final rounds. He shot a creditable one-under-par 71 on the last day to finish one shot behind of Granberg, who closed with a 66 for a maiden Asian Tour victory.
Still, Panuphol was delighted with his sterling run where his father Chinnawat, who is also his coach, was on caddying duties. “I had my chances but I didn’t take them. The win was there for the taking but I didn’t capitalize on it but overall I’m still happy. I know I can play well at the highest level,” said Panuphol.
He turned professional when he was nearly 15 and subsequently plied his trade on the domestic Thai circuit and mini events around the region. He served notice of his potential by capturing the 12th card at Qualifying School in Thailand earlier this year but failed to make an impact in five starts, missing the cut in three of those. But a week before his Malaysian trip, Panuphol worked hard and it paid off.
The manner in which he kept his composure was also impressive as the talent pipe from out of Thailand continued to flow with new and upcoming players. “I wasn’t a fan of studying and golf is the only job I can do.
That was why I turned professional early in my life. I enjoy playing golf and my goal is to make a living from out of the game. “I want to win on the Asian Tour but it’s not easy to win. I’m just looking for opportunities to win,” said Panuphol. He picked up the game when he was six, thanks to his father’s influence. By eight, he was already winning junior events in Thailand and he also competed in five World Junior Golf Championships, finishing runner-up in the nine to 10 age-group.
“I loved being out on the golf course with my father. I just wanted to play and win. I didn’t find the game boring at all and had fun all the time when I was out on the golf course,” said Panuphol. Panuphol idolises six-time Asian Tour champion Prayad Marksaeng whose success story would make a good movie as he rose from a humble beginning.
“I like his discipline. From out of nothing, he has worked hard to become what he is today,” he said. Granberg delivered another success story for the Qualifying School graduates as he joined American Berry Henson in winning in his rookie season on the Asian Tour.
The 24-year-old Finn moved up to 13th place on the Order of Merit with his winner’s cheque of US$60,902. Filipino Antonio Lascuna, who tied for third, moved to 26th position while Australia’s Adam Groom, who was also third, moved to 49th place on the rankings.
India’s S.S.P. Chowrasia still leads the race to become the new Asian Tour number one with his haul of US$410,007, followed by Bangladeshi Siddikur, who stands on US$189,255. Asian Tour Order of Merit
Photo - Asian Tour
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