HIGHLY rated Malaysian amateur Abel Tam fired an opening round one-under 71 in his first attempt at the Asian Tour Qualifying School Final Stage today.
Tam took control of his nerves as he ended day one in tied 54th position, seven shots from the first round leader Nathan Holman of Australia, who shot a sparkling 63 at the par-71 Springfield Royal Country Club in Cha-am, Hua Hin.
A total of 238 players teed off in the all-important Final Stage where the top-40 and ties will earn an Asian Tour card for the 2014 season.
The first two rounds of the Final Stage will be held at Imperial Lakeview and Springfield Royal. After two days, the top-80 and ties will progress to the final two rounds which will be played at Springfield Royal.
Tam, who is among 11 Malaysians in the field, credited his solid start at Imperial Lakeview to his experience of playing in Asian Tour events such as the Maybank Malaysian Open and Worldwide Holdings Selangor Masters.
In 2012, he drove home with a car after striking his first ever hole-in-one at the Worldwide Holdings Selangor Masters before finishing tied 57th. Last year, he was among the Malaysian team who secured a bronze medal in the golf team event at the South East Asian (SEA) Games.
“I missed a couple of putts but it is a good round. I started with a bit of nerves but I didn’t have any expectations. This is my first attempt at Qualifying School. I just told myself to go through the routine and the nerves will go away,” said Tam.
“I played in a couple of Asian Tour events and this sort of experience is invaluable. You can win many amateur events but it doesn’t make any difference because you need to put yourself out there and do what these professionals are doing week in and week out.
“It’s good I have the experience to play in a couple of Asian Tour events to familiarise myself with the surrounding of professional golf,” he added.
Tam believes he is prepared to turn professional but the decision will solely depend on the outcome at the Final Stage. He is currently one shot away from breaking into the top-40 and ties.
“If I can get some sort of status on the Asian Tour then I will probably turn professional. If I don’t then I will wait a bit longer,” he explained.
The next best Malaysian was Rizal Amin (71) followed by Shaifubari Muda (73), Nicholas Pua (74), Mohd Iylia Jamil (74), Sukree Othman (74), S. Sivachandhran (75), Arie Fauzi (74), Keegan Kam (76), Chien Tan (75) and Daniel Ng (81).