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Golf | Asia

Boonchu Ruangkit © Gallo Images

Boonchu rolls back the years



Thailand's golden oldie Boonchu Ruangkit and Filipino teenager Miguel Tabuena -- 39 years Boonchu's junior -- shot masterful four-under-par 67s to share the first-round lead at the Queen's Cup on Thursday.

A battle of the generations, the 56-year-old Boonchu rolled back the years with a bogey-free round to match 17-year-old Tabuena, who negotiated the challenging Santiburi Samui Country Club in Bangkok, Thailand, with six birdies against two bogeys.

Big-hitting Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Rattanon Wannasrichan ensured a strong local presence on the leaderboard of the $300,00 Asian Tour event with 68s for tied third place with South Korea's Baek Seuk-Hyun.

Thailand's Prayad Marksaeng, Korean newcomer Hong Soon-Sang and Australia's Adam Groom ended the day a further shot back.

Boonchu, a five-time Asian Tour winner and the European Senior Tour Order of Merit champion following four victories in 2010, was rock solid at the tricky course in Koh Samui, which is nicknamed the Samui Beast.

"No bogeys today, I'm very happy. I don't think I've played ever a round here without any bogeys. All the time I have bogeys or double bogeys," Boonchu told the Asian Tour.

He was in trouble only once on the opening hole following a wayward drive but the Thai saved par. Boonchu then birdied the third, 11th, 15th and 17th holes, with the longest putt coming from 12 feet to raise the local cheers.

"My tee shots were very confident today. I've got a lot of experience and mentality is important. I can still play a stable game. On some courses, I can compete against the young boys," said Boonchu.

Tabuena, rated one of the region's rising stars, stumbled at the ICTSI Philippine Open in February, closing with an 81 after being in contention to become the event's youngest ever champion.

"It took me a long time to recover," reflected Tabuena of his near miss at home.

"I thought I had it but Mardan (Mamat) played so steady, like a veteran to win. I told myself, 'you have many more tournaments to go, you're still young, and to keep working at your game.'"

FIRST-ROUND SCORES

67 - Miguel Tabuena (PHI), Boonchu Ruangkit (THA)

68 - Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA), Baek Seuk-Hyun (KOR), Rattanon Wannasrichan (THA)

69 - Adam Groom (AUS), Prayad Marksaeng (THA), Hong Soon-Sang (KOR)

70 - Thaworn Wiratchant (THA), Siddikur (BAN), Himmat Rai (IND), Guido Van Der Valk (NED), Javi Colomo (ESP), Piya Swangarunporn (THA), Sattaya Supupramai (THA), Mars Pucay (PHI), Sutijet Kooratanapisan (THA)

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