KUALA LUMPUR (MALAYSIA): Hong Kong's Leon D'Souza displayed nerves of steel as he outlasted Naoki Sekito of Japan in a play-off to triumph at the ninth edition of the Ambank SportExcel International Junior Championships on Thursday.
Shenzhen, China [March 19]: Japan’s Yuki Kamasu snared a final-hole birdie to soar to the top of the leaderboard after the second round of the ninth Faldo Series Asia Grand Final.**
Shenzhen, China [March 18]: Japan’s Yuki Shino set a blistering pace on the opening day of the ninth Faldo Series Asia Grand Final.
The 16-year-old rallied from three strokes back, thanks to a brilliant closing effort of one-under 71 to force extra holes at the challenging Kota Permai Golf & Country Club.
Having sizzled with an opening five-under 67, co-overnight leader Sekito could only manage a second straight 74 to finish level with D'Souza in regulation play on one-under 215.
At 21 the eldest competitor in the elite 82-player field, Kamasu signed for a five-under-par 67 over the acclaimed Nick Faldo-designed Faldo Course at Mission Hills Shenzhen.
The talented 17-year-old threw down the gauntlet to his rivals in the elite 82-player field with a four-under-par 68 over the acclaimed Nick Faldo-designed Faldo Course at Mission Hills Shenzhen.
Both players traded birdies on the first play-off hole before D'Souza, one of the city state's up-and-rising amateurs, capitalised with a par on the next hole to put an end to the pulsating contest.
Thailand's Amarin Kraivixien was placed third on 218, one stroke clear of compatriot Parathakorn Suyasri.
That gave him a 36-hole total of six-under 138 – and a one-stroke lead from Czech Republic’s Simon Zach and American Zachary Bauchou heading into Friday’s final round in the R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking event.
Playing aggressively, Shino scattered six birdies and an eagle-two at the short par-four 15th to offset two bogeys and one double-bogey.
After a string of runner-up finishes this year, D'Souza was delighted to cap his season with a breakthrough international title.
"I was striking the ball well all week and my solid start kept me in contention. I have been to Malaysia many times before for other tournaments but to win this particular championship on my first attempt on this golf course is something to cherish," said the lanky teen of Portuegese-Filipono heritage, who opened his campaign with matching 72s.
Also in contention in what promises to be a thrilling finale are Hong Kong’s Leon Philip D'Souza , Indonesian Fadhli Rahman Soetarso  and Princess Mary Superal of the Philippines , the leading female.
Six-time Major champion Sir Nick Faldo, Britain’s most successful golfer, said: “What an explosive performance from Yuki! If he maintains that form then he’s going to be the player to beat.”
He traded four birdies and three bogeys to make the turn on 35 but failed to convert his chances on the back nine as he returned with nine pars.
"I hit nine greens in regulation on the back but couldn't find a birdie, which was a minor disappointment. But I bounced back strongly in the play-off, whatever nerves I had dissipated when I sunk the birdie on the first extra hole. It was 50-50 between Naoki [Sekito] and myself and I didn't crack under the pressure," said D'Souza, who received the Tan Sri Azman Hashim challenge trophy, named after the founder and chairman of title sponsor AmBank Group.
Among a group of six players within striking distance on 143 are Minami Hiruta, the reigning Japan Women’s Amateur champion, and first-round leader Yuki Shino, who was left to rue a triple-bogey eight at the fourth where he took three off the tee and also found water.
Shino, who secured his starting place here after emerging victorious in the Faldo Series Japan Championship, attacked from the outset, picking up shots at each of the first three holes.
In the girls' division, Siti Zulaikhaa Shaari underlined her growing credentials as one of Malaysia's brightest future stars when she claimed the overall title ahead of China's Dong Linyu. Other age-group category winners include Thailand's Jenny Ham (girls' 13-14), Kim Gyeong Min (boys' 11-12), Weerawish Narkprachar of Thailand (boys' 10 and under) and Japan's Kokoro Ouchi (girls' 10 and under).
Caption for VIP photo: L to R: *Foundation for Sporting Excellence Malaysia (SportExcel) chairman Tunku Tan Sri Imran Almarhum Tuanku Ja'afar, overall girls' champion Siti Zulaikhaa Shaari, overall boys' champion Leon D'Souza, AmBank Group head for group corporate communications and marketing Syed Anuar Syed Ali*
“It’s poised for a memorable final-round shootout,” said tournament host Sir Nick Faldo, who beguiled competitors at a short-game clinic following the second round.
Bidding to follow in the footsteps of Masamichi Ito and Mikumu Horikawa and become the third Japanese winner of the Faldo Series Asia Grand Final in the past four years, Shino reached the turn in one-under
Leading final round scores (Malaysian unless stated) >
The six-time Major champion, Britain’s most successful golfer, added: “We’ve had several dramatic finishes here before and it looks like it’s going to go all the way to wire tomorrow.”
Thanks to that effort, Shino will take a one-stroke lead over Indonesian Fadhli Rahman Soetarso and Chinese Taipei’s Tsai Kai-jen into Thursday’s second round.
Kamasu trailed playing partner Bauchou by one shot going to the 516-yard 18th. But while the Japanese secured a closing four, his American rival could manage only a bogey-six as the lead exchanged hands.
(D'Souza wins on second extra hole)
Underlining the quality of the field, a total of 11 players bettered par, including American Zachary Bauchou  and Simon Zach from the Czech Republic and Brazilian Rohan Boettcher [both 71].