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Indian Prasad prevails in thrilling climax at Faldo Series Asia Grand Final
Shenzhen, China (March 4): Arjun Prasad fired a breathtaking closing six-under-par 66 to claim a remarkable come-from-behind victory in the 10th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final.
Four shots off the pace heading into the final round, the 17-year-old Indian produced a near-flawless performance over the acclaimed Faldo Course at Mission Hills Dongguan.
"It's been an amazing week – one that I'll remember for the rest of my life," said Prasad, who posted a 54-hole total of 10-under 206 in the R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking event.
That was two shots ahead of Thailand's overnight leader Atiruj Winaicharoenchai who signed off with an even-par 72. Japan's Nasa Hataoka carded a 70 and ended three strokes further back in third. She had the consolation of topping the Girls' Under-16 division and finishing as the leading female overall.
"My thanks to Nick Faldo for all his support and encouragement. I was awestruck to meet him and to see him hit shots during the clinics. That was really inspiring," added Prasad, who is the third Indian to win the Faldo Series Asia Grand Final, following in the footsteps of Rashid Khan and Abhijit Chadha.
Two birdies and an eagle-three at the long fourth enabled Prasad to turn in four-under 32, at which point he led 15-year-old Atiruj by one.
By the time they reached the tee at the par-three 16th, Prasad had extended his advantage to two. But there he struck his only poor shot of the day, pulling his short-iron into the water and having to settle for a double-bogey that allowed Atiruj to draw level.
It was then that Prasad showed his true champion qualities, arrowing a five-iron approach over water to within tap-in distance at the 17th to regain top spot. With Sir Nick Faldo watching from the sidelines, Prasad maintained his composure with a textbook par at the long 18th to seal the deal.
Six-time Major champion Faldo, Britain's most successful golfer, said: "Arjun's victory is a fitting finale to our 10th anniversary Faldo Series Asia Grand Final.
"It was an engrossing contest between him and Atiruj and this certainly ranks as one of the most exciting and dramatic final rounds we've seen since we launched the Series here at Mission Hills in 2007."
In the Girls' Under-21 category, victory went to American Kaitlyn Papp, a three-time Rolex Junior All-American who was joint second in last September's Faldo Series Grand Final at Sporting Club Berlin.
Fourth overall at Mission Hills, the Boys' Under-21 winner was England's Jack Yule, who also won that segment at the Faldo Series Grand Final in Berlin.
In the Boys' Under-18 it was Hong Kong's Leon D'Souza who emerged triumphant, seeing off the challenge of Japan's Ibuki Yoshida.
The Mission Hills Trophy for the leading mainland Chinese player was presented to Liu Ziwei by Mission Hills Vice Chairman Tenniel Chu. Liu finished equal 14th overall and joint fifth in the Boys' Under-18 category.
As well as receiving the Faldo Series Asia trophy, Prasad will be granted an exemption into an Asian Tour event, while Hataoka will be given a start in a Ladies European Tour event.
Both have also earned themselves a trip to compete in this year's Faldo Series Europe Grand Final.
Faldo added: "During the past decade, many of the players who have participated in the Faldo Series have gone on to enjoy successful professional careers.
"This week we brought together more than 70 young golfers from 20 countries around the world and based on what I've seen I'm hopeful many of them will make names for themselves in the years ahead.
"The standard of play is improving every year and I'm excited about the future as we continue our effort to grow the game of golf globally through the Faldo Series."
Supported by The R&A and Mission Hills and endorsed by the Asian Tour and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation, the 2015-16 Faldo Series Asia campaign stretched over 11 months and was made up of 21 events in 17 countries including, for the first time, Australia.
Recognised as the only global amateur series for boys and girls, the Faldo Series was established in 1996, expanding to Asia in 2006.
Today, 40 Faldo Series tournaments take place in 30-plus countries worldwide, touching more than 7,000 golfers each year. Past winners include multiple Major champions Tseng Ya-ni and Rory McIlroy.
Leading final-round scores:
206 – Arjun Prasad (IND) 69-71-66
208 – Atiruj Winaicharoenchai (THA) 71-65-72
211 – Nasa Hataoka (JPN) 72-69-70
215 – Leon D'Souza (HKG) 68-77-70
216 – Jack Yule (ENG) 79-66-71
219 – Ryo Katsumata (JPN) 74-77-68, Tom Parker (NZL) 71-77-71, Ibuki Yoshida (JPN) 77-71-71
220 – Hou Yu-sang (TPE) 75-76-69, Jordan Garner (AUS) 74-74-72, Shubham Narain (IND) 79-69-72
221 – Hosho Takahashi (JPN) 76-72-73
For full scores and results please click here.