Perth, Australia: Kiradech Aphibarnrat took out the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth at Lake Karrinyup Country Club.
Kiradech followed a similar path to his fellow-Thai Phachara Khongwatmai who qualified last into the top-24 in 2017 and played his way to the final.
This time, however, the honours lay with Thailand as Kiradech defeated New South Welshman James Nitties in the final.
It was a barnstorming finish from the crowd favourite who finished with an eagle and a birdie to claim his fourth European Tour title.
“It’s just been an awesome week. I don’t know how to explain, but I’m so happy. I’m working so hard. The last few months I’ve been getting really close and finally I’ve done it,” said Kiradech.
Arriving in Perth on Wednesday afternoon, Kiradech got his first look at the course in round one of the tournament and immediately made an impression shooting five-under 67. Even-par rounds on Friday and Saturday meant he was part of the nine-man play-off to secure a spot in Sunday’s match play.
He said the lack of preparation may have been of benefit to him, playing some holes around the course without fear.
“First hole you just see clearly; second hole I hit driver, just 130 yards to the flag on the first round, and then I walked down the fairway and looked at my caddie saying: ‘Did you just let me hit driver on this one?’ It’s so narrow, I told him I won’t hit driver at all,” added Kiradech.
Kiradech and Australian Anthony Quayle eventually played the 18th four times in round three before the Thai secured the final spot inside the top-24.
It was an opportunity Kiradech wouldn’t take from granted. He beat Australian Ben Eccles one-up in round one and took Japan’s Yusaku Miyazato through five trips on the knockout hole, adjacent to the 18th fairway, to qualify for the quarter-finals.
American Sean Crocker took Kiradech through all six match play holes but the result eventually fell one-up in the Thai’s favour.
After playing the first two rounds of the tournament together, Kiradech again met up with Victorian Lucas Herbert, the two big hitters putting on a fantastic display in the semi-final. A brilliant first shot on the knockout hole proved the difference and Kiradech advanced to meet Nitties in the final.
After losing the first hole, Kiradech showed his class halving the second and winning the final three to take out the final 2&1.
“It’s really tough to get in the last 24. It’s been tough every single match that I played. I’m just really happy with the result,” said Kiradech, whose win was made all the sweeter after a string of near misses in tournaments on both the Asian Tour and European Tour.
“It means a lot. When you focus on something, you try hard, this hard, then I was finishing second and I’m not giving up. I’m trying so hard until I get it.”
Nitties’ path to the final included wins over fellow-Australians Nick Cullen, Dimitrios Papadatos and Callan O’Reilly and England’s Sam Horsfield.
The Novocastrian was noble in defeat considering how close he came to securing playing rights on both the European Tour and Asian Tour.
“It’s a sad way to go down considering another win might have got me some playing rights somewhere in the world because I currently have no status. But it was a great week,” said Nitties.
“Considering I was a four-foot putt away from losing the first match, it was pretty positive stuff getting to the final.”