American rookie, John Michael O’Toole captured his maiden Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) Tour title when he won at the Clearwater Masters recently.

The 22-year-old, who came into the fourth and final round of the RM200,000 golf tournament at Clearwater Sanctuary Golf Resort, Batu Gajah, Perak with a four-shot lead, carded a one-under 70 on the final day, Saturday, March 12. The score gave the American a 15-under-par 269 tally, two shots ahead of his Thai rival.

Thailand’s Poom Saksansin shot a 68 and was runner-up with a 13-under 271 total, while Malaysian R. Nachimuthu also finished with a three-under 68. He was third, a stroke adrift on 272.

Sattaya Supupramai, of Thailand, was fourth with an 11-under 273, while his compatriot Namchok Tantipokhakul (69) and Jay Bayron (68) of the Philippines were tied for fifth. They finished on nine-under 274.

The Thai duo of Natthapong Niyomchon (67) and first round leader Ekthumrong Luanganuruk (72) were joint seventh on 275, Malaysia’s Gavin Green (70) and Sorachut Hansapiban (67), of Thailand, were tied on six-under, 278.

O’Toole, cousin of last season’s Asian Development Tour Order of Merit winner, Casey O’Toole, had mixed fortunes over the front nine, he stumbled to bogey at the 2nd hole and triple-bogey at the 6th hole.

However, four birdies levelled things for him. And after two birdies and a bogey on the back nine, he did enough to wrap-up the title with some room to spare. The victory was worth RM35,000 to the Bangkok-based American.

Ipoh Echo caught up with the players and those behind the game.

Regarding the weather, this was what O’Toole said, “Usually, in Alabama where I’m from, we’ll get some days like this in early August, around midday.” A first-timer to Ipoh, here is his advice for aspiring golfers, “Follow your dreams, you’ll never know when your time will come. Put in hard work and just keep at it.”

Turning to his game, the amiable O’Toole commented: “Kind of had a struggle there on hole 6 but ended up finishing strong the rest of the way. I tried focusing on one shot at a time and never gave up until I reached the final hole. I am pleased with the way I finished.” This is his first win since turning professional last year.

“I’ve been speaking with my mentor (veteran Malaysian pro) Iain Steel every day and that helped pull me through here. He’s given me a lot of good advice and I really appreciate it,” he added.

Poom had this to say, “I played okay. I thought I could put some pressure on John but my three-wood let me down today. But I’m still happy with how I played. I am happy I gave myself a chance to contend for the title. My game is good and, hopefully, I can win a second tournament soon,” added Poom, who is also 22.

Serendah-born R. Nachimuthu, 45, came in third. A multiple winner on the Tour, he was pleased with his week’s work at Clearwater. He carded all four rounds in the 60s. Nachimuthu’s final day score was a three-under 68.

“I keep working on my fitness, as well as staying focused with my training,” said Nachimuthu, one of the senior players on Tour.

For his efforts, Nachimuthu earned RM14,000 and a few notches up the world ranking, since the tournament was co-sanctioned by the Asian Development Tour.

Kenny Yap Ken Nan, Chief Executive Officer of Clearwater Sanctuary Golf Resort, was delighted to host the golf tournament. According to him, the PGM Clearwater Masters was part of their rebranding effort after their last hosting of the tournament in 2011.

“This is a new start for us. That’s why we wanted the tournament to build that new branding. We hope to stage more golf tournaments in future in line with our resort’s goal of improving the standard of golfing in the country,” said Kenny.

Also present at the prize-giving ceremony held on the same day were Dato' Mohamed bin Hamzah, Chairman of Clearwater Sanctuary Golf Resort and Mior Abdul Rahman, General Manager of Professional Golf of Malaysia.

Mei Kuan and Nantini