CLARK - With his rivals ahead of the pack at the Luisita Golf & Country Club on Friday (Dec 6), James Leow turned on the heat – with his hot putter – in the third and final round at the 30th SEA Games to claim Singapore’s first individual golf gold in three decades.
Tied for top spot with Thailand’s Nopparat Panichphol and Denwit David Boriboonsub after the first day on four-under 68, Leow found himself trailing after the second round.
He posted a 70 to dip to third place, as Thai Tanapat Pichaikool took the top spot on the leaderboard on an eight-under 136 total. Nopparat was second on 138.
But Leow, a 22-year-old sophomore at Arizona State University, clawed back on the final day of the competition in Clark, firing up his putter in the hot, humid conditions to put in seven birdies.
He finished on seven-under 65 to card a 13-under 203 total and secure the gold.
Tanapat had to settle for the silver on 204, while compatriot Nopparat took the bronze on 205.
Team Singapore’s golfers last won an individual gold in the sport at the 1989 Games in Kuala Lumpur, where Samson Gimson finished atop the podium.
At the last edition in Malaysia in 2017, Gregory Foo, Joshua Shou, Marc Ong and Joshua Ho captured the country’s first-ever team gold.
Leow said after his round: “I was hitting my drives really straight, iron shots right on the distance number, reading my putts really well and hit them on the line with good pace.
“I came into this event targeting a gold medal and gave it my all to try and achieve it.
“There was a huge hunger in me before the tournament and I wanted to play the best I could. It’s a surreal feeling to finally win the individual gold medal for Team Singapore again. I’m honoured to have the opportunity to represent Singapore and winning it with the support of my family, friends, teammates, managers and coaches just makes it way more exciting.”
National coach Matt Ballard added: “This victory is huge for Singapore in many ways. Not many people gave us a chance of gold – but we have been quietly working smarter with our high-performance team and athletes during the year...
“Training in Singapore always has a purpose and we have clarity of intent and structure to our training on a weekly basis. There are no surprises to me and certainly no short cuts to this success and James never takes any. Full credit to his discipline, work ethic and grit to outlast a strong Thailand squad over the last few holes.”