Australia’s Unho Park wins fifth HKPGA Championship title in six years

Veteran golfer finishes on three-under to finish one stroke ahead of last year’s winner Scott Barr

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 January, 2017, 8:32pm
UPDATED : Friday, 06 January, 2017, 10:20pm

Unho Park’s love affair with the FTLife HKPGA Championship continued at Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club today, with the Australian claiming his fifth title in six years with a stylish display over the dramatic clifftop course.

The Korean-born Australian held off the challenge of his compatriot, defending champion Scott Barr, with a two-under-par 68 to finish with a three-under total. Barr, who like Park is an Asian Tour regular, was also round in 68 to end one shot shy, while Hong Kong’s Shinichi Mizuno, playing in his first event as a pro, finished in a share of third place alongside Wong Woon-man, two further shots back.

“I don’t know what it is about this event but it clearly agrees with me,” said 42-year-old Park, who finished second to Barr 12 months ago and who collected a cheque for HK$100,000. “I didn’t make it easy on myself but I was happy to be able to hang on and get it done. It’s a great feeling.”

Park, who started the round in a share of the lead alongside Wong and Hong Kong veteran Dominique Boulet, flew out of the gates with three front-nine birdies to establish a healthy lead. A double bogey at the 13th cut the Singapore-based player’s lead to just two, but a timely birdie at the par-five 15th followed by a steady run of pars was enough to deny a fast-finishing Barr.

Three-time Asian Tour winner Anthony Kang earned fifth spot, while Boulet, who had downplayed his chances of earning a third FTLife HKPGA title, slumped to a disappointing 77 to finish in sixth.

“After I made double I saw how close it had become, with Scott making a move. It wasn’t so comfortable at that point but I’m proud of the way I knuckled down and got across the finishing line,” added Park, who won four straight titles between 2012 and 2015.

Barr, who returns to Asian Tour Qualifying School next week, was left to rue a decidedly cold putter but was quick to point out the positives from Hong Kong outing.

“I tried really hard and it was a shame I didn’t get the putter going until late in my round. But my hat goes off to Unho, who obviously played really well to win again,” said the 44-year-old. “I’ve had a great time and it sets me up really well for next week, which is a massive week for me. I learnt a lot about where my game is, so it’s been a very positive experience.”

Mizuno, 23, will join Barr at Asian Tour Qualifying School and was delighted with the way he capped off his fine professional debut, going bogey-free on the final day.

“It gives me a lot of confidence,” said the former Hong Kong Amateur champion. “I didn’t start the championship well, so to finish with a 67 and move up the leader board was a very nice way to begin my professional career.”