Local hope Gavin Green hopes to shine at the inaugural US$3 million Maybank Championship Malaysia starting on Thursday to ease his transition from amateur to professional rank.
Big-hitting Green, who is a Maybank-sponsored player, joined the play-for-pay rank last year following a stellar amateur career but has since taken time to replicate his previous success where he was ranked as high as 12th on the world amateur rankings.
The 22-year-old Green will be among the elite cast assembled at Royal Selangor Golf Club, including Danny Willett of England, Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, Germany’s Martin Kaymer and local stars Danny Chia and Nicholas Fung.
“It isn’t easy when you turn professional. As an amateur, I did everything in a group. But now I have to do everything on my own. It is a big transition but I’m loving it. It has always been my dream to turn professional,” said Green.
He started working with swing coach Chris O’Connell, who also coaches to PGA Tour star Matt Kuchar, and hopes to reap the rewards very soon.
“I had to go with something more consistent and I wanted to try something new so I started working with Chris. I’m feeling more comfortable now. Every time I tee it up, I want to win but it isn’t easy. Hopefully this week I will shine,” said Green.
He received some encouraging advice from world number three Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland when they met at a tournament in Dubai two weeks ago.
“I talked to Rory on the putting green and he told me that it is a normal transition from an amateur to a professional. He also told me to just play golf and not to worry too much,” said Green.
After taking a week’s break from golf to celebrate the Lunar Chinese New Year, Malaysian veteran Chia, a two-time Asian Tour winner, is ready to launch a title charge at the Maybank Championship Malaysia.
He has made it a priority for the 2016 Olympics where he currently lies inside the top-60 qualifying mark to qualify for Rio de Janeiro. A tied 14th finish at the LeoPalace21 Myanmar Open two weeks ago has given him a nice boost for this week’s Maybank Championship Malaysia, which is jointly sanctioned with the European Tour.
“I played well in Myanmar so the result will give me some confidence this week. This year, my focus is to get more world ranking points to qualify for the Olympics. I tried to get as many world rankings points last year and I played consistently but I think that wasn’t good for my body,” Chia explained
“I wasn’t hitting it that well in Myanmar but I managed to score. After I came back from Myanmar, I decided to refresh my mind and didn’t play for a week. I just relaxed and spend a lot of time with my family for the Chinese New Year. I usually play better after playing in a stretch of events but I will feel better after three days of practice rounds,” he added.
The bespectacled Fung, who is searching for a first Asian Tour victory, feels at home at Royal Selangor. He and Chia formed one of the best partnerships at the EurAsia Cup last month as they contributed half points in the Foursomes and Fourball sessions for Team Asia.
“I’ve always wished to play in a tournament at Royal Selangor, which is very similar to my home course in Kota Kinabalu. It’s an old-styled designed, tree lined and different from the modern-day golf courses. You have to play it safe most of the times, you can’t be overly aggressive as there are lots of trees out there. As I’m not a long hitter, it kind of suits me and hopefully I’ll play well. I’m happy to be on this course.
“I started well at the EurAsia Cup. Of course I’m still keeping my form. I want to be better this year and will try to improve more. Playing the EurAsia Cup gave me a lot of confidence as I faced top players. Hopefully I can build on this for the rest of the year,” said Fung.
Despite feeling under the weather, Fung is confident he can strike a good result this week. “I’ve been sick for three days. I’ll try to recover as much as I can. Lots of water for me. I played an umbrella helping me shield from the sun and I’ll do this during the tournament to try and avoid getting sick. Too much eating during Chinese New Year!”