Chonburi – Heading into the Final day of the Amata Friendship Cup, the star-studded Thailand Team, headed up by world number 37 Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Thailand’s most decorated golfer, Thongchai Jaidee, and women’s world No 1 Ariya Jutanugarn held a comprehensive 10-6 lead.
Knowing what was required, the Japan team, lead out by male amateur Yuto Katsuragawa, got off to a strong start, leading in seven of a possible twelve matches as the first group reached the ninth hole. As matches started to come to a close, resistance from the Thai team came courtesy of young female amateur Atthaya Thitikul, an on-form Jazz Janewattananond and 2018 LPGA Tour victor Thidapa Suwannapura.
However, Team Japan enjoyed a successful run of matches as Masahiro Kawamura defeated Thongchai Jaidee 3&2, and Fumika Kawagishi defeated Pornanong Phatlum 5&3 to again switch momentum in favor of Japan.
With tension building, and most matches going all the way to the 18th hole, it was evident that the closing four matches would prove to be the most important for both sides. Consisting some of the most decorated players both Team Thailand and Team Japan had to offer, all eight players would need to rely on their experience in order to secure an important point for their team.
The first match of the final four to make it to the 18th hole at Amata Spring Country Club was Thai golf veteran Prayad Marksaeng, taking on Japanese worldwide star Hideto Tanihara. As the two players headed down the final hole all-square, neither player managed to produce the goods as they both finished with a bogey and shook hands on an honorable half.
Following Marksaeng and Tanihara was Moriya Jutanugarn, taking on an in-form Mami Fukuda. This closely fought affair was another one to make it all the way to the 18th hole, with Fukuda managing to hold onto a 1up lead and secure another vital point for Team Japan.
Only one match of the final four did not make it to the 18th hole at Amata Spring, and that was the final match of the day, consisting of Japan’s highest ranked female player, Nasa Hataoka, and female world number one Ariya Jutanugarn. The 19- year-old Japanese star came out of the blocks quickly, reaching the turn 4up. Jutanugarn tried to muster some form of comeback but Hataoka’s relentless performance didn’t let up as she finished the match on the 17th hole with a 3&1 victory.
That left one match on the course, the marquee match of the 12 singles. World number 37 Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Team Japans highest ranked player, Satoshi Kodaira. With Thailand only needing a half point to win, and Japan needing a full point to force a play-off, it was evident that both players knew what was at stake.
After finding the fairway, but missing the green, Aphibarnrat and Koidara faced testing up and downs for par. After lack-luster chips from both players, it was looking like a par would probably be good enough to win the match.
Kodaira stepped up first and as his putt narrowly ran past the hole, the fait of the Amata Friendship Cup was left in the hands of Aphibarnrat. Relying on his experience on the world stage, the world number 37 stepped up and sunk his putt for par, meaning the inaugural Amata Friendship Cup would be staying in Thailand for another year.
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