October 7, 2018

Techakanokboon holds on to win first pro title at Zhuhai Championship

ZHUHAI, GUANGDONG, CHINA—American Kevin Techakanokboon shot a closing 2-over 73 to hold off Japan’s Yuwa Kosaihira and win his first pro title at the RMB 1.5 million Zhuhai Championship, the penultimate event of this year’s PGA TOUR Series-China and the Tour’s 50th event since its inauguration in 2014.

With Malaysian pro Arie Irawan as his caddie for the weekend, Techakanokboon parred the last seven holes at Orient Golf Club to finish 4-under overall, one ahead of 20-year-old Kosaihira (69) – now third on the Order of Merit – and two clear of money-list leader Charlie Saxon (72) of the U.S., who led after the first and second rounds.

Chinese amateur Yilong Chen (71) finished one-under to share fourth with Korea’s Todd Baek (72), who played in the final group with Saxon and Techakanokboon, while China’s Zeming He (71) shared sixth with New Zealand’s Luke Toomey (68) at even-par.

China’s Zihao Chen (72) was alone in eighth at one-over, one ahead of compatriot Huilin Zhang (70), America’s Ryan Siegler (71), Italy’s Aron Zemmer (74), and England’s Callum Tarren (72), who is second on the Order of Merit and racked up his Tour-leading eighth top-10 finish of the season.

Nick Voke started the day four shots off the leader, but the New Zealander’s bid for a third straight title on Tour faded as he eventually shot a closing 77 to tie for 16th.

Techakanokboon – nicknamed ‘Tech’ – started the week 88th on the Order of Merit, so was primarily determined to play well in a bid to finish in the top-50 of the Order of Merit and retain his Tour card, but ended up taking home the RMB 270,000 winner’s check.

“It still really hasn’t sunk in yet and I’m sure later I’ll really feel the emotions of it, but right now I’m just really happy to be done with it,” said Techakanokboon, who’s now 20th on the money list as he heads to the season-ending RMB 2 million Clearwater Bay Open in Hong Kong.

“I’m feeling pretty relieved. I knew I needed a good three weeks in the last three events to try and keep my status for next year, and thankfully I’ve done that.”

Techakanokboon, who also has citizenship in Thailand, picked up his only two birdies of the day on Nos. 2 and 3, but bogeyed Nos. 4, 7 8, and 11, before seven straight pars was enough to hold off Kosaihira.

“I had quite a few chances for birdies on the back nine, but nothing quite went in. Pars are not bad on a day like today, as the course was playing pretty tough,” said Techakanokboon, who graduated from Long Beach State University in 2015.

“Arie helped a lot today. He just kept me really focused on our game plan. I made a good bogey on eight after hitting in the hazard on the par-3, and that really kept the round going and I just tried to hang in there.”

Kosaihira, who was playing in the penultimate group, started the day with an eagle on the par-5 and then racked up five birdies, including on three of the last five holes, and five bogeys, even losing four balls on the testing layout.

His runner-up finish propelled him three spots on the Order of Merit, a big boost in his bid to finish in the top-five of the money list and earn status on next year’s Web.com Tour.

“I played good today. I hit into hazards four times and still shot 2-under, so I’m happy with the round,” said Kosaihira. “This result has helped me move inside the top-five on the Order of Merit and gives me some confidence for Hong Kong. I can’t wait to play there.”

Saxon, 25, started with 10 consecutive pars before carding bogeys on Nos. 12, 14 and 16, then closed with back-to-back birdies to secure solo third.

The American has now earned RMB 1,076,967 to become just the second player after Zecheng “Marty” Dou – who played on the 2017-18 PGA TOUR – to earn over RMB 1 million in a single season.

“It was just a grind out there. I was getting up-and-down from a lot of places to save par and just really trying to put the ball into position,” said Saxon, who is now almost RMB 200,000 ahead of Tarren (RMB 878,600) in the Order of Merit.

“It was disappointing to make some bogeys on the back nine, but to birdie the last two and finish solo third means I made a huge chunk of change on the last couple of holes. That’s really important towards the money list.”

From the 2018 PGA TOUR Series-China Order of Merit, the top-five will earn status on next year’s Web.com Tour, top-10 players are exempt to the Final Stage of the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament and any player ranked 11-25 is exempt to the Second Qualifying Stage.

The PGA TOUR established PGA TOUR Series-China in 2014 as its third international developmental tour, following in the footsteps of PGA TOUR Latinoamerica and the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada. Since its inception, PGA TOUR Series-China players have received Official World Golf Ranking points for top finishes at official tournaments.