VALENCIA, Spain – American Mike Cunning may have won the European Senior Tour season finale on Sunday, but it was Boonchu Ruangkit of Thailand who sealed the Order of Merit with a closing round that was characteristic of his four-win rookie season.
Boonchu RUANGKIT THA €266,609
Chris WILLIAMS RSA €227,350
Angel FRANCO PAR €217,308
Gordon BRAND JR SCO €197,017
Carl MASON ENG €190,008
David J RUSSELL ENG €165,722
Andrew OLDCORN SCO €163,114
Marc FARRY FRA €146,570
Des SMYTH IRL €142,749
Sam TORRANCE SCO €141,047
Ruangkit’s prospects for the tour crown didn’t look promising as money list No. 2 Chris Williams of South Africa entered the final day of the OKI Castellón Senior Tour Championship tied for the lead with Cunning and Sam Torrance. A win or second-place showing by Williams, added with Ruangkit finishing outside the top 28, would give the title to Williams.
But nine birdies and a closing round of 65 propelled the 54-year-old Ruangkit to finish eighth Sunday and secure the John Jacobs Trophy with earnings of €266,609.
“I’m so proud to follow great players like Ian Woosnam and Sam Torrance as the winner of the John Jacobs Trophy,” Ruangkit said. “This is a big moment for me in my career. Sam and Ian are big names, and it’s great that a Thai player can come and win like this on the European Senior Tour.”
He may have started the year as an unknown in Europe, but it took little time for the “Godfather of Thai golf” to introduce himself. He exploded onto the scene by winning his first outing of the season as a sponsors exemption at the Aberdeen Brunei Senior Masters in March.
Now as a full tour member, Ruangkit followed that with back-to-back victories at the Thailand Senior Masters and Berenberg Bank Masters that same month.
More top-10 finishes came at the Handa Senior Masters, Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open and the Travis Perkins plc Senior Masters, before his last victory of the season at the Benahavis Senior Masters in October.
“I had a great start to the year, but then I was concerned about the weather in Europe,” he said. “I don’t like the cold very much, but whenever the weather was good, I played well.
“I was very pleased to get the job done in Spain. It was a good battle with Chris (Williams), but I was very happy to do it.
“I had no expectations coming into this season; I just wanted to play well. I thought I could maybe win once, but I never thought I could do it four times.”
Ruangkit, who turned professional at 30 after abandoning a career as a kickboxer, becomes the sixth rookie to win the European Senior Tour Order of Merit, following John Fourie (1992), Jon Morgan (1994), Brian Barnes (1995), Carl Mason (2003) and Woosnam (2008).
Ruangkit finished €39,259 clear of Williams – a margin that would have been even greater had his prize money of €44,332 from Brunei counted.