By Lerpong Amsa-ngiam
Chon Buri - Hosts Thailand took first-day honours over Japan but Thai ace Kiradech Aphibarnrat urged local fans to turn up in greater numbers at the US$1.2 million Amata Friendship Cup at the Amata Spring Country Club.
The hosts scored two and a half points from the morning’s foursomes before doubling their lead in the afternoon in the inaugural edition of the mixed team event to lead 5-3 overnight.
Even though the Thais took a two-point overnight lead, it was the visitors who had more support from their fans, prompting Thai No 1 Kiradech to urge home fans to show up in greater numbers and get behind their team.
“I was a bit sad that there were more Japanese fans out there today when this is our home tournament,” said Kiradech, who teamed up with teenage prodigy Atthaya Thitikul in the foursomes against Satoshi Kodaira and Yuri Yoshida, a match that ended all-square.
“I really hope to see more Thai fans over the weekend.
“We played quite well and had four birdies without a bogey. But we were facing two players who were playing incredibly well too. However it ended up being all square. At least we earned half a point,” added the world No38.
Thailand got off to a flying start in the morning’s foursomes, the superb pairing of Prom Meesawat and rising star Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras seeing off Masahiro Kawamura and Mami Fukuda 2 up, followed by another point from three-time Asian Tour No 1 Thongchai Jaidee and Thidapa Suwannapura, winner of the LPGA Marathon Classic in July, who beat Kodai Ichihara and Sakura Koiwai 1 up.
Japan’s only win in the foursomes competition was by Ryuko Tokimatsu and Erika Hara of Japan, who beat Prayad Marksaeng and Moriya Jutanugarn 6&5.
In the afternoon’s fourballs, Thailand stretched their lead to 3-1 when young gun Jazz Janewattananond and Thai No3 Pornanong Phatlum beat Hideto Tanihara and Nasa Hataoka 3&2.
“We are like ham and egg – when one played badly, the other played well,” said Jazz, winner of the Queen’s Cup in Pattaya in July. “I like playing with Pornanong and we will team up again on Saturday.”
Final-hole bogey denies tourists
Japan reduced the arrears to 3-2 when Tokimatsu and Hara earned their second point of the day, beating Prom Meesawat and Pannarat 4&3.
Prayad and world No 1 Ariya Jutanugarn fought back from one down to share the honours with Kodai Ichihara and Fumika Kawagishi but only after the Japanese duo carded a bogey on the final hole.
“Luckily, the Japanese players missed their shots, one in a bunker and other into the water, which opened a chance for us. So I told Ariya to just hit it on to the green and she did it,” said the 52-year-old Prayad, who bemoaned the fact he had to play 36 holes in one day.
Ariya, meanwhile, was thrilled to finally pair up with the three-time Japan Senior Tour No 1, one of the Kingdom’s legendary golfers.
“I couldn’t control the ball at the beginning. But we finally fought our way back which is really satisfying,” said the 10-time LPGA Tour winner.
In the last match of the day, Sadom Kaewkanjana and Moriya Jutanugarn beat Yuto Katsuragawa and Sakura Koiwai 1 up to ensure the Thais retained their lead.
hailand 5 Japan 3
Prayad Marksaeng and Moriya Jutanugarn of Thailand lost to Ryuko Tokimatsu and Erika Hara of Japan 5&6
Prom Meesawat and Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras beat Masahiro Kawamura and Mami Fukuda 2 up
Thongchai Jaidee and Thidapa Suwannapura beat Kodai Ichihara and Sakura Koiwai 1 up
Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Atthaya Thitikul A/S with Satoshi Kodaira and Yuri Yoshida
Prayad Marksaeng and Ariya Jutanugarn halved with Kodai Ichihara and Fumika Kawagishi
Jazz Janewattananond and Pornanong Phatlum beat Hideto Tanihara and Nasa Hataoka 3&2
Prom Meesawat and Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras lost to Ryuko Tokimatsu and Erika Hara 3&4
Sadom Kaewkanjana and Moriya Jutanugarn beat Yuto Katsuragawa and Sakura Koiwai 1 up