One of India’s top non-professionals in 1999, Amish Jaitha, relived in bits and parts that old touch to produce steady rounds of 71 and 72 to emerge as the 2014 Angkor Amateur Open golf champion at the Sir Nick Faldo-designed Angkor Golf Resort in Siem Reap yesterday.
Now pursuing his family business of textiles in the Vietnamese city of Hanoi, Jaitha is the sixth new winner in the scroll of honour as he swept past three previous winners in the field – Ly Hong, Don Bland and Michael Moir.
“This is my first trip to Cambodia. I hadn’t won anything big for a long time and it was sweet,” Jaitha told the Post after receiving the glittering trophy and a host of other goodies as reward for his triumph from AGRs director of golf David Baron.
When he went out as the overnight leader with four birdies and three bogeys in his first round, Jaitha was up against a scorching sun and a bunch of players swooping on his slender lead.
“I had taken a few risks in the first round. But I decided to stick to my game plan and told myself that it is fairway green, fairway green and putts will drop,” added Jaitha.
It was at the par-five 13 that the heat of the contest alerted the Indian to be cautious and cut out the spectacular when defending champion Moir of Scotland fired an eagle to put pressure on the leader.
Jaitha’s response was swift and solid. He came up with a birdie on the next to retain the momentum and rode it home without much anxiety the rest of the way. His three birdies wiped out as many bogeys for a round of even par that was good enough to save the gravy.
“I think that birdie putt on the 14th was crucial because I had this feeling that, though I led, the rest were closing in,” said Jaitha, who clinched the title with the lowest total score of the annual competition’s five-year history.
After his championship hopes faded out, left-handed Cambodian Ly Hong, who was aiming to regain the title he had won in 2012, picked up as some consolation the top prize in Division A, which was decided on combined Stable-ford points.
His two-round 77 took him ahead of Britain’s Paul McNally and Singaporean Eddie Cho, who both finished at 76 and were separated on a six-hole countback.
Cambodia’s Tan Savun was the clear winner of Division B with 78 points while South Korea’s Kim Key Hoing topped Division C with 75 points.
The biggest ever field of 18 in the women’s event saw Gilda Madestomas of the Philippines lead all the way to her first significant victory since she took up the game in 1998. Rounds of 82 and 81 netted Madestomas 76 points, giving her a comfortable victory margin over Singapore’s Ho Ping Lian Mimi, who finished with 73.
“This is my best score and I am very happy. This is my first visit to Cambodia and it was fun. I liked the course and I would like to get back,” Madestomas told the Post.
Australian professional Scott Hend, the longest hitter on the Asian Tour and runner up in 2013’s Order of Merit, brought star value again this year to the showpiece.
He conducted a private clinic on pitching, chipping, putting and bunker play for the benefit of participants during Friday’s practice sessions and followed it up with a free clinic the next day.
“It is fun. The course is challenging and I feel good to be here,” said Hend.
Some of the players also pitched in for a worthy cause by taking part in the nearest-to-the-pin charity contest to raise funds for the Treak Community Center, which is situated about 4 kilometres from Siem Reap, serving families living in extreme poverty.
The centre, the motto of which is “Creating opportunities, not dependency”, carries out several social programs such as English classes, nursery, library, IT classes, microfinance projects, building projects and a community garden.
At the end of the prize distribution, Baron made a solemn announcement about the recent passing away of Emmet McHenry, a keen and a popular player in Cambodian golfing circles.