Date: February 06, 2017
Author: Mark Hayes

Thai holds nerve amid Smith charge

A rolleroaster ride ended with triple the smiles for Thailand golfer Prima Thammaraks.

Thammaraks won her first professional title at the RACV Gold Coast Challenge at the weekend and, in doing so, secured starts at this week's Oates Vic Open and next week's ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open.

The 24-year-old began the final round at Royal Pines in a share of the lead at six under with young compatriot Paannarat Thanapolboonyaras, but quickly surged four clear with birdies on the 3rd, 5th and 6th.

But with Queenslander Sarah Jane Smith finding her feet, a bogey on the seventh, a double on the eighth and another error up the ninth suddenly looked more than problematic for Thammaraks.

Smith began six shots off the lead, but with birdies on the 1st and 3rd holes before 10 straight pars, two par-three birdies on the 14th and 16th gave her hope.

The LPGA Tour star then solidly holed out from four feet on the final green for a flawless five-under par 68 to set the clubhouse lead at -5.

Thammaraks suddently found herself standing on the 18th tee needing a birdie to win and looked comfortable when she was just 5m short of the par-five green in two.

An errant chip shot then left her a 6m birdie try, but digging deep she hit a brilliant putt that dropped to ensure victory.

Thammaraks, of Bangkok, had planned to try to pre-qualify for the next two weeks, but is now safely in both fields.

"This is a huge win for me. I had been in this position a couple of times in my career and haven’t been able to finish it off," Thammaraks said.

"I was so nervous on the last putt, but I just thought come on, give it a good chance and then it went in.

"I am so excited to get that first win and now to be able to play here the next two weeks.

"The only downside to this is that it is my mother’s birthday is on (February) 16th which is the first day in Adelaide and if I did not qualify I would have been heading home to see her, but I am sure she will understand," Thammaraks joked.

Smith, becoming a consistent star on the LPGA Tour, finished second at five under, while impressive Gold Coast youngster Rebecca Kay finished third at two under.

Capping a good week for the Queenslanders, Katherine Kirk finished alone in fourth place.