S'pore lead at Putra Cup

Singapore's top amateur golfer Gregory Foo tees off on the par-four 10th hole at Tanah Merah Country Club's Garden Course. He made par on his opening hole.
Singapore's top amateur golfer Gregory Foo tees off on the par-four 10th hole at Tanah Merah Country Club's Garden Course. He made par on his opening hole.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Hosts bank on strength in depth to hold two-stroke advantage over Thailand after first round

A squad with a depth Singapore golf has worked for years to build have started brightly in their quest to be named South-east Asia's best amateur team at the Putra Cup.

The trio of Gregory Foo, Joshua Shou and Marc Ong all broke par in their opening rounds at Tanah Merah Country Club's Garden Course for a combined score of 203, earning them a two-shot lead over two-time defending champions and favourites Thailand.

Thai Kammalas Namuangruk had the day's best score with a five-under 65, but the Singaporeans were not far behind, occupying the next three spots on the leaderboard.

  • LEADER BOARD (1ST ROUND) 

  • PUTRA CUP (Men; best three scores)

    203 Singapore

    205 Thailand

    213 Malaysia

  • SANTI CUP (Women; best two)

    137 Singapore

    141 Thailand

    142 Philippines

  • LION CITY CUP (Under-16 men; best two)

    140 Thailand

    143 Philippines

    146 Indonesia

  • KARTINI CUP (Under-16 women; best two)

    146 Philippines

    148 Thailand

    151 Hong Kong

Foo was two shots off the lead with a 67, while Shou and Ong each signed for a 68. Joshua Ho also had a creditable round, finishing with an even-par 70. Only the best three scores for each team are counted for the Putra Cup.

Thailand's Sadom Kaewkanjana and Witchayanon Chothirunrungrueng both posted 70s for the team's overall score of 205, with the Malaysians in third place (213).

It is still early days in the four-day tournament, but Singapore national coach Andrew Welsford said the lead is not simply earned from home ground advantage - it is indicative of the strength of the squad.

"We've been working towards this moment in Singapore for many years, to have a depth of players that we can pick from," he said.

"There are a few other very fine players who have missed out on being in this team and that's a really great position to be in."

In 55 previous editions of the annual tournament, Singapore have claimed the individual title on seven occasions but lifted the Cup only five times, with the last victory coming in 2011.

Added Welsford: "For all four players to shoot par or better is a very good start. The team are a very close unit and we're really expecting every individual to contribute this week."

He reserved special praise for Foo, as Singapore's top amateur golfer showed steely nerves in making strong comebacks following two poor shots.

On the par-four 17th, Foo found his ball against the lip of the bunker. But he recovered with a strong chip, sending the ball to within three feet and making birdie.

At five under heading into his last two holes, the 23-year-old hit what he described as his only bad swing off the tee yesterday on the par-three eighth hole. That errant effort sent his shot into the water, resulting in a triple-bogey. What followed could very easily have been a late collapse. But Foo, who began on the 10th hole, sank a 25-foot putt with his final shot, finishing with a birdie and a strong fist pump.

"That made lunch taste a little better," he joked, admitting that flight-mate Kammalas' form made for extra pressure. "You just really have to force yourself to think, to stay positive, or even say it out loud to finish strong."

Said Welsford: "To still have the gumption, the mental fortitude to stand out there and hit two great shots to make birdie and finish three under for the round, it shows a lot of strength and experience."

While the tournament was spared from the torrential downpour that hit the city centre in the morning - the lightning warning did halt play for about an hour - conditions remained tricky from steady breezes.

Said Kammalas, who only practised on the Garden Course once before the tournament began: "I was quite confident today. The conditions were quite windy but I just went with my instincts."

Said Foo: "We can't worry too much about what the Thais are doing. We'll just focus on our team.

"All the boys are very pumped up this week. It really means a lot to us to compete on home ground and we really want it very badly."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore lead at Putra Cup'. Print Edition | Subscribe