Taichi Kho. Asian Tour
Taichi Kho made history by becoming the first player from Hong Kong to win an Asian Tour event after he recorded a hugely popular and significant victory at the inaugural World City Championship at Hong Kong Golf Club.
Kho, who only turned professional in January, triumphed by two shots from New Zealand’s Michael Hendry on another wet day at HKGC to fittingly celebrate the week he was announced as an ambassador for the club and the return of international tournament golf to Hong Kong for the first time in 38 months.
The 22-year-old Kho closed with an even-par 70 to finish the tournament, which was reduced to 54 holes because of the inclement weather, on 12-under, and also secure one of the four spots up for grabs in this year’s Open Championship at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in July.
Hendry shot a 68 while Australian Travis Smyth returned a 66 to finish third, three behind Kho. Korean Bio Kim (65) and Miguel Tabuena (72) from the Philippines tied for fourth, a shot further back.
Hendry, Smyth and Kim also made it through to The Open, where Kho will also become the first Hong Kong player to compete in the game’s oldest and most prestigious Major. Kim secured his berth ahead of Tabuena due to a better world ranking.
“Being at home, in front of everyone, having my parents here, it just means the world to me. I want to say thank you to everyone,” said Kho.
“I can’t put into words how grateful I am to have this opportunity. To play on the Asian Tour and represent Hong Kong Golf Club, to play well with both those things it is very special. The fans gave me a lot of momentum, thank you to Hong Kong.”
Saturday’s poor weather meant Kho could only play two holes of his third round before play was stopped for the day at which point he had a healthy four-shot lead over Tabuena. But when played resumed at 8.05am on Sunday he struggled to find his rhythm, to the concern of his many local supporters, and dropped shots on the third and sixth to see his lead reduced to two.
However, to the delight and relief of everyone watching he sensationally got back on track when he holed out from 50 yards for a birdie on the par-four ninth before holing a difficult five-foot putt for par on the next.
A dropped shot on the ensuing hole was again cause for alarm especially as further ahead Smyth and Korean Yoseop Seo had made birdies to close the gap to one.
But Kho produced another master shot on the short par-three 12th nearly holing his tee shot. He confidently holed a four-foot putt there for a birdie and a two-shot advantage.
On the par-five 13th he reached the green in two to set up a birdie for a three-shot cushion. He then had a chance to go four ahead on the following hole but missed a 12 footer for birdie before he dropped a shot on the next after failing to get up and down from a greenside bunker.
That mean he had a two-shot lead over Smyth with three to play but it soon moved to three when the Australian dropped a shot on the last.
And by the time he reached 18 his lead was back to two over playing partner Hendry, who made a strong finish with birdies on 16 and 17. Kho opted to hit driver on the famous par-four closing hole and to the thrill of the large gallery watching his ball landed safely to help set up a comfortable, drama free par.
He said: “I definitely wasn’t fearless, I was nervous, which was perfectly natural in the moment, but I said to myself I will be a better player by the end of it. I stuck to my game plan, did not shy away from him it and fully committed to what I have in my book. I told my coach last night whether I have a two-shot lead or back by one on the last hole, I am taking driver, and I fully committed to that. That’s the reason why I succeeded this week.”
This is only Kho’s third event as a professional on the Asian Tour as he made it through the Tour’s Qualifying School in January. He is the third fastest graduate from the school to win on tour.