No Gavin, so trio carry nation’s hopes in born-again Open

  • Golf
  • Thursday, 20 Feb 2020

SHAH ALAM: The national No. 1 will not be here and the home fans will have to count on the likes of Ben Leong, Nicholas Fung and Danny Chia to end the nation’s 58-year wait for a first Malaysian Open golf champion.

The country’s top player, Gavin Kyle Green (pic), will not be among the 37 Malaysian professionals teeing up in the US$1mil (RM4.16mil) meet which makes its return after a five-year hiatus at the Kota Permai Golf and Country Club (KPGCC) from March 5-8.

The 26-year-old Gavin has signed up for the Qatar Masters, which takes place the same week.

The Qater Masters is part of the European Tour, where Gavin is currently plying his trade for a third successive season.

The 2017 Asian Tour Order of Merit winner has been outstanding in his four appearances to date, finishing no worse than a top 30 with the highlight being a joint-third finish at the Saudi International three weeks ago.

It is not hard to understand why Gavin decided to pass on the opportunity to compete in the national Open.

Currently ranked 12th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai standings, Gavin stands a good chance of qualifying for his second British Open, which will be held at the Royal St George’s from July 16-19.

His goal will be to keep himself in the top 20 until late June, hence his main focus is on the European Tour.

In his first British Open appearance in 2018, where he qualified by being the 2017 Asia Tour No. 1, Gavin made the cut to come in a creditable joint 61st.

Gavin has featured in the Malaysian Open five times as an amateur between 2010 and 2015. He was best remembered for finishing tied 22nd, a splendid feat considering the tournament was then co-sanctioned by the European Tour.

Malaysian Golf Association (MGA) president Tan Sri Mohd Anwar Mohd Nor is still hopeful that Gavin who he considered the nation’s “only hope”, would change his mind and spearhead the challenge at KPGCC.

“We invited Gavin but we were told that he’s taking part in the Qatar Masters,” said Anwar after unveiling Bandar Malaysia as the title sponsor of the tournament yesterday.

“We hope he can play. He’s our best bet, our only hope (to win the Malaysian Open championship) at the moment.”

No Malaysian has won the tournament since its inception in 1962 although the late P. Gunasegaran came closest in 1996, losing an epic eight-hole playoff to Sweden’s Joakim Haeggmann at the Royal Selangor Golf Club.

Despite Anwar’s views, other local professionals likes Ben, Nicholas and Danny cannot be written off as they have all proven themselves by winning on the Asian Tour previously.

Also looking to impress will be Kim Leunkwang, Daeng Abdul Rahman Abdul Aziz, Amir Nazrin Jailani and Shahriffuddin Ariffin , who make up the new generation of Malaysian golfers.

With the tournament no longer being jointly sanctioned by the European Tour, it opens up the competition to Asian Tour regulars, including Malaysians, to battle for glory.

Meanwhile, having Bandar Malaysia on board has given the tournament a timely boost ahead of the tee-off in two weeks.

“This championship is the pride of Malaysia’s golfing community and we are happy Bandar Malaysia shares our passion in growing the profile of the game of golf in this country,” said Anwar.

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