Wednesday, 8 January 2014 | MYT 8:08 PM
Tran takes clubhouse lead in Sabah Masters
Michael Tran of Vietnam hits a shot during the first round of the Sabah Masters Malaysia golf tournament at the Sutera Harbour Golf and Country Club in Kota Kinabalu. — AFP
PETALING JAYA: Vietnam’s pioneering professional golfer Michael Tran carded a flawless first round of six-under 65 and beat the rain to take the clubhouse lead in the US$75,000 (RM245,625) Sabah Masters.
He leads the final event of the 2013 Asean PGA Tour season by three strokes from Singaporean Mardan Mamat, who lost in a playoff here last year, Thailand’s Sattaya Supupramai and Filipino Mhark Fernando at Sutera Harbour Golf and Country Club in Kota Kinabalu.
Thailand’s Wisut Artjanawat, winner of this event in 2011, his compatriot Pipatong Naewsuk and veteran Filipino Frankie Minoza, the champion in 1989, carded identical 69s.
Heavy rain and lightning stopped play at 1.50pm for two and a half hours and this resulted in 23 players being unable to complete their rounds.
The 24-year-old Tran is often in the spotlight as he is the only touring professional from his country.
On Wednesday he showed that he is finally ready to let his game do the talking.
“I had a great day and am delighted to start so well. Nice start to the year!” said Tran, who learned to play the game when he was 13 years old while studying in New Zealand.
Tran began his round on the 10th and made the turn in four-under with birdies on the 11th, 13th, 16th and 18th. On the second nine, he finished off with birdies on holes No. 7 and 9 to lead an Asean PGA Tour event for the second time.
“I was comfortable on the course and made very few mistakes. I was lucky to finish before the rain delay,” said Tran.
Last June, he led going into the final round of the PGM-Asean PGA Penang Classic before eventualy finishing fourth for his best result on the Asean PGA Tour.
Minoza, aged 54, is one of Asia’s golfing greats and showed that he hasn’t lost much of his prowess 25 years after winning this event.
The former Asian Tour number one, who spent much of his career playing in Japan where he claimed seven titles, is the oldest golfer in the field.
“It’s great to be back and great to be in the hunt early on,” said Minoza, a two-time winner of the Philippines Open.
Defending champion Antonio Lascuna came in with a 71 while Thailand’s Kwanchai Tannin, who has already secured the Asean PGA Tour Order of Merit, fired a 72.
Sabah youngster Nicholas Fung, who is one of the favourites to win this week, also shot a 72.
Malaysia’s Danny Chia, playing in his first event for over six months, fired a respectable 74.