THE Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) Tour restarts after the Ramadan break of April with the inaugural KIA Championship at Glenmarie Hotel & Golf Resort. And if the field is anything to go by, there is promise of great excitement, as almost all of the country’s leading players – men and women – will take on the Garden Course again.
Shahriffuddin Ariffin, along with Asian Tour regulars Ben Leong and Nicholas Fung, will start as a pre-tournament favourite, when it gets underway on Tuesday, while in the women’s category Aretha Pan will be seeking a second straight PGM Tour title, with South-East Asian (SEA) Games medalist Mirabel Ting, also in the reckoning.
Shahriffuddin starts the event, which carries RM120,000 prize money for the men and RM20,000 for women, with some good form, barring the missed cut in the Blue Canyon Open in Thailand earlier this week.
The 23-year-old won the PGM Tour’s second event of the season, the PGM Maybank Championship, and was third in the opening Tun Sarji Ahmad Trophy in February.
The immensely talented Shahriffuddin also narrowly missed out at the Laguna Phuket Cup in Phuket where he finished runner-up one-and-a-half weeks ago. A top-15 finish in the Laguna Phuket Challenge at the beginning of the month, also helped Shahriffuddin climb to fifth on the Asian Development Tour’s Order of Merit.
Waiting in the wings is a long list of players, all capable of winning here, including Khor Kheng Hwai and Daeng Abdul Rahman, who both finished in the top-10 of the first two PGM tournaments this year.
A huge blend of youth and experience, among them several multiple Tour winners, will add spice to the KIA Championship, which will also have Malaysia’s men’s SEA Games team in action at Glenmarie – Ervin Chang, Marcus Lim, K. Rhaasrikanesh and Nateeshvar Ganesh.
In the women’s section, Mirabel Ting, who clinched the ladies’ title at the Maybank Championship and was part of the SEA Games team that won a silver in Vietnam, is expected to give Aretha another run for her money.
Also in the mix at Glenmarie will be Ainil Johani Bakar, Dianne Luke, Michelle Koh and Nur Durriyah Damian.
Speaking of the three-day event that will come to a close on Thursday, Bermaz Auto Berhad executive chairman Datuk Sri Yeoh Choon San said as sponsors they were delighted to partner with the PGM Tour and added that they were looking forward to it with much enthusiasm.
“What excites us here is not only that this is the inaugural KIA Championship, but we also have a strong field in both the men’s and women’s categories.
“This is really a welcome development the Tour and ourselves and has been capped off nicely by members of Malaysia’s SEA Games team, who won medals in Vietnam, also in the line-up. We couldn’t have asked for anything better,” added Yeoh.