Date: May 23, 2016
Author: Mark Hayes

In-form Barker conquers Malaysian Open

Glenelg’s Lachlan Barker has capped a memorable month with a thrilling playoff victory in the Malaysian Amateur Open Championship.

Barker, 17 and still studying at Tatachilla Lutheran College in Adelaide, made a clutch par on the second playoff hole at Templer Park Country Club in Rawang, then watched as Thailand's Wichayanon Chothirunrungrueng three-putted to give him the title.

It was a remarkable end to an eventful afternoon in one of the world’s oldest amateur events with Barker coming from five shots adrift at the start of the round and the Thai star leading by two late in the final round.

But full of hope and confidence that his recent role as winning South Australian junior team captain provided, Barker poured in a closing birdie to make the playoff and finish at one under par.

“I’m really lost for words. I really didn’t think I was actually going to win as Witchayanon was playing very well. It was a nerve-wracking playoff,” Barker said.

After bogeys on the third and sixth holes, Barker knuckled down and hit a tournament-high 11 fairways on the tight layout and scrambled superbly to get back into contention when he didn’t find the short grass.

“I thought there was an outside chance I would be able to contend today, but I really didn't think I was actually going to win,” he said.

“Going into today, I was five off the lead and I thought if I do something amazing, I might have a chance but I was two-over early into my round and it wasn’t looking promising to be honest.

“But things turned around for the better, started hitting better shots and making a couple more putts.

“In the end, the cards fell my way in a playoff for once, which is great and I’m happy for that,” said Barker, who had no inkling that the leading pack had dropped off the pace.

“I didn’t realise how closely matched we were until I reached the clubhouse and it was probably better for me because it allowed me to play my natural game and I didn’t feel any pressure.”

Barker was third, one of only three players under par at the recent Australian Junior Championship in Tasmania, then backed up to lead South Australia to a share of the title with New South Wales the following week.

He then returned 2.5 of a possible six points against quality – and largely experienced – opposition at No.2 in the senior SA team in the Interstate Series in Queensland.

Overnight leader Ruperto Zaragosa, of the Philippines, finished third, one shot out of the playoff after a disappointing 77.

Canberra’s Josh Armstrong also impressed with a closing 73 to finish tied sixth at two over, while Melbourne’s Andrew Schonewille was T22 at nine over, while fellow Victorian Tyler Wooster was the next best Aussie at 12 over.