Thailand sweep women’s golds as Hong Kong’s Kho makes Asiad golf history

October 02, 2023

HANGZHOU: Thailand´s Arpichaya Yubol snatched Asian Games women´s gold on Sunday after India´s Aditi Ashok blew a seven-shot overnight lead, while rising star Taichi Kho made history for Hong Kong golf in the men´s event.

Kho kept his nerve despite a charge by PGA Tour star Im Sung-jae for a one-stroke victory at 27-under par and Hong Kong´s first golf medal ever at the Asian Games. Im still secured team gold, a feat that will exempt him and his three teammates -- Kim Si-woo, Jang Yu-bin and Cho Woo-young -- from compulsory military service back home.

Thailand won men´s team silver and Hong Kong took a second medal with the bronze. Ashok, who shot an incredible 11-under-par 61 on Saturday, slumped to a final-round 77 on the par-72 West Lake International Golf Course in Hangzhou but still secured silver.

LPGA Tour rookie Arpichaya´s final-round 68 took her to 19-under par and victory over Ashok by two strokes. "When I hit the second shot on 18 I felt it was straight, but when I saw it land on the green, I cried a little bit," said the world number 206, who was mobbed by her equally emotional Thai teammates after holing the final putt.

The 21-year-old´s four-under round also sealed the women´s team gold for Thailand on a 34-under aggregate, six clear of South Korea, with China taking bronze. South Korea´s Yoo Hyun-jo, who plays on the domestic KLPGA Tour, won the individual bronze after China´s world number 13 Lin Xiyu tumbled off the podium with a one-over 73.

Yoo shot the round of the day, a seven-under 65, to finish three clear of Lin. The top-ranked player in the field, China´s world number two Yin Ruoning, finished in a tie for eighth after a disastrous triple-bogey seven at the first hole.

Ashok struggled all round and finally caved in after her fourth bogey of the day at 15. "It wasn´t a good day and I played bad," Ashok said.

Her next tee shot on the short 16th found water. It led to a double-bogey five, her seven-shot overnight lead was now a one-stroke deficit.

"I still felt I was in it at 16, but that one shot threw me out of it because when you hit the water it´s just a penalty shot.

"There´s no way of coming back from that." Arpichaya birdied the next and coolly closed out with a par.

Kho, a 22-year-old Asian Tour rookie who won this year on just his fourth professional start, held a three-shot overnight lead in the men´s event. "I´m definitely gonna enjoy this," said Kho after a three-under final round 69 was enough to keep at bay the world number 27 Im, who shot a fabulous 65.

The Korean had a 25-foot birdie putt at the last to get to a tie at 27-under but it slid past by a whisker. Taiwan´s Hung Chien-yao took bronze. Kho´s wonderful lag putt on 18 left him with a two-inch tap-in for gold.

He brushed it in and then was soaked as all his Hong Kong teammates charged onto the green to celebrate, spraying champagne. "They´re all my best friends," said Kho. "We´ve been playing cards in the village all night. "We´re going to celebrate tonight, but I probably best not tell you how!"