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Joyous birthday gift for home favourite Nicholas Fung as he wins Hilux Cup

KOTA KINABALU, Thursday: It was the perfect birthday gift for Nicholas Fung when he used his intimate knowledge of the Sabah Golf & Country Club layout to carve out a scorching six-under 66 and an 8-under 208 aggregate to win the inaugural Hilux Cup by three strokes here today.

Local heroes Aretha Pan who almost scored a hole-in-one at the 17th, and Ben Leong finished joint second to complete a clean sweep for Sabah GCC. They returned scores of 69 and 73 respectively for a 211 three-day aggregate while Galven Green had a roller coaster round of five birdies, four bogeys and a double to finish alone in fourth, two strokes ahead of Wilson Choo in fifth. Mirai Cup champion Ervin Chang finished a further stroke adrift.

Nicholas was obviously in joyous mood especially when his wife and young daughter flew in from Kuala Lumpur to celebrate his birthday.

“I don’t know what to say … my family, the large crowd of mostly Sabah GCC members and the staff have been rooting for me and I guess this victory repays their support. It’s been a wonderful birthday for me.”

Nicholas started the day at two-under and was four strokes behind overnight joint leaders Ben and Galven. It was indeed entertaining for the large crowd as the lead changed hands several times during the round. But there was never a doubt as to who received the most cheers when Nicholas took the outright lead after notching three birdies in a row on the 13th, 14th and 15th holes.

He gave the expectant crowd more reason to cheer when he smartly finished his round with a birdie on the Par 5 18th. For his first victory on the Toyota Tour presented by UMW Toyota Motor, Nicholas pocketed a cool RM31,500.

Galven’s booming drives gave him opportunities for birdies especially on the short 13th and the par 5 14th. But his short game let him down. Then disaster struck on the 15th when his wayward tee shot ended up in the trees and the ensuing double bogey spelt the end of his chances. He finished his round two-over 74.

Ben played par golf in his outward nine but back-to-back bogeys on the 11th and 12th holes prevented his charge. “I’ve been having some issues with my swing these last few months. I’m going to Perth this week to catch up with my coach and hopefully he’ll be able to tweak my swing a bit. After that I’ll play the Korean Open on the Asian Tour.”

Charlayne Chong, another product of the Sabah GCC junior development programme, finished as Best Amateur after rounds of 80, 71 and 70 for a 221 total. It was her second victory after winning Best Amateur in the Tun Ahmad Sarji Trophy event at Saujana last month.

“I’m happy with the way I played today but I’m not sure when I would be turning pro as I intend to complete my degree studies first,” said Charlayne who defeated her nearest rival overnight leader Nasrullah Zulkifli by seven strokes. He had a disastrous 81.

Nicholas, who intends to compete in the Vios Cup at Templer Park Country Club next month, will be heading for Taiwan to compete in a tour event there next week while Ervin, Paul San, Galven and Shahriffuddin Ariffin leave for Phuket on Sunday for an ADT event.

Chang Soo Keong, who scored an ace during yesterday’s second round, received RM1,000 for his achievement from the PGM and a further RM2,000 from UMW Toyota Motor as a bonus for being the first golfer to score a hole-in-one on the Toyota Tour.

The Hilux Cup is the third leg of the Toyota Tour. The next event will be the Vios Cup at Templer Park
Country Club from June 20-22.

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