Thailand Arpichaya Yubol Asian Games

Thailand’s Arpichaya Yubol hits a shot during the women’s individual golf event at the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, in China’s eastern Zhejiang province on October 1, 2023. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP)

Thailand’s Arpichaya Yubol snatched Asian Games women’s gold on Sunday after India’s Aditi Ashok blew a seven-shot overnight lead, while rising star Taichi Kho made history for Hong Kong golf in the men’s event.

Kho kept his nerve despite a charge by PGA Tour star Im Sung-jae for a one-stroke victory at 27-under par and Hong Kong’s first golf medal ever at the Asian Games.

Im still secured team gold, a feat that will exempt him and his three teammates — Kim Si-woo, Jang Yu-bin and Cho Woo-young — from compulsory military service back home.

Thailand won men’s team silver and Hong Kong took a second medal with the bronze.

Ashok, who shot an incredible 11-under-par 61 on Saturday, slumped to a final-round 77 on the par-72 West Lake International Golf Course in Hangzhou but still secured silver.

LPGA Tour rookie Arpichaya’s final-round 68 took her to 19-under par and victory over Ashok by two strokes.

“When I hit the second shot on 18 I felt it was straight, but when I saw it land on the green, I cried a little bit,” said the world number 206, who was mobbed by her equally emotional Thai teammates after holing the final putt.

The 21-year-old’s four-under round also sealed the women’s team gold for Thailand on a 34-under aggregate, six clear of South Korea, with China taking bronze.

South Korea’s Yoo Hyun-jo, who plays on the domestic KLPGA Tour, won the individual bronze after China’s world number 13 Lin Xiyu tumbled off the podium with a one-over 73.

‘Gonna celebrate tonight’

Yoo shot the round of the day, a seven-under 65, to finish three clear of Lin.

The top-ranked player in the field, China’s world number two Yin Ruoning, finished in a tie for eighth after a disastrous triple-bogey seven at the first hole.

Ashok struggled all round and finally caved in after her fourth bogey of the day at 15.

“It wasn’t a good day and I played bad,” Ashok said.

Her next tee shot on the short 16th found water. It led to a double-bogey five, her seven-shot overnight lead was now a one-stroke deficit.

“I still felt I was in it at 16, but that one shot threw me out of it because when you hit the water it’s just a penalty shot.

“There’s no way of coming back from that.”

Arpichaya birdied the next and coolly closed out with a par.

Hong Kong Taichi Kho Asian Games

Hong Kong’s Taichi Kho hits a shot during the men’s individual golf event at the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, in China’s eastern Zhejiang province on October 1, 2023. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP)

Kho, a 22-year-old Asian Tour rookie who won this year on just his fourth professional start, held a three-shot overnight lead in the men’s event.

“I’m definitely gonna enjoy this,” said Kho after a three-under final round 69 was enough to keep at bay the world number 27 Im, who shot a fabulous 65.

The Korean had a 25-foot birdie putt at the last to get to a tie at 27-under but it slid past by a whisker.

Taiwan’s Hung Chien-yao took bronze.

Kho’s wonderful lag putt on 18 left him with a two-inch tap-in for gold.

He brushed it in and then was soaked as all his Hong Kong teammates charged onto the green to celebrate, spraying champagne.

“They’re all my best friends,” said Kho.

“We’ve been playing cards in the village all night.

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“We’re going to celebrate tonight, but I probably best not tell you how!”

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