Sabah, Malaysia: Amir Nazrin Jailani fuelled his ambitions to join the ranks of the professionals with a thrilling victory in the 11th edition of the Faldo Series Malaysia Championship.
The two-time Malaysian Junior Open champion and national team representative emerged from a congested leaderboard to eke out a tense triumph at the Sabah Golf & Country Club.
Five shots off the pace heading into the final round, Amir posted a closing one-over-par 73 in the 12th leg of the record-breaking 2016-17 Faldo Series Asia season.
That gave him a 54-hole total of 227 and a one-stroke success from Lim Beng Keat and overnight leader Fazley Chua. A further shot back in joint fourth overall were Geraldine Wong, Casper Loh and Bryan Tan.
For Amir – runner-up in the Under-18 category last year – there was the satisfaction of topping the standings in the Boys’ Under-21 segment as well as overall.
He can now look forward to showcasing his talents in the 11th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final, to be hosted by Sir Nick Faldo at Laguna Lăng Cô in Danang, Central Vietnam, in March, 2017.
There he will be able to gauge whether he’s ready to relinquish his amateur status and try to make a living from playing the game.
“I have not decided on whether to turn pro just yet,” Amir said recently. “I just want to enjoy playing golf, that’s all. I might consider to turn professional if I can be consistently under par.”
Although he did not better par over the notoriously difficult Sabah layout, Amir put the experience he has gained from participating in a handful of Asian Development Tour events to good use, remaining calm while his rivals faltered.
Chua came a cropper at two of the short holes, running up double-bogey fives at the eighth and 17th en route to a 79 that left him one shot shy of forcing a play-off.
For Lim, the 601-yard 14th, rated the hardest hole on the course, proved to be his nemesis. A triple-bogey eight there meant he signed for a 77.
Nonetheless, he still took top honours in the Boys’ Under-16 category, one shot ahead of Tan who saw his hopes fade when he bogeyed 16 and 17 in a round of 75.
Seemingly out of the picture after 36 holes, Loh and Wong forced their way into contention with strong late charges.
Loh picked up shots at four of the first five holes as he posted an even-par 72 and comfortably claimed first place in the Boys’ Under-18 category.
But the best round of the tournament belonged to Wong, who was a model of consistency in returning a 71, the only sub-par return of the week. Her round consisted of two birdies, 15 pars and a solitary bogey and ensured she was a runaway winner in the Girls’ Under-16 division.
Supported by The R&A and endorsed by the Asian Tour and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation, the 2016-17 Faldo Series Asia campaign stretches over 11 months.
As well as two events in China, India and Thailand, championships will be staged in Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Chinese-Taipei, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.