Malaysia’s rising star Gavin Green will be seeking more success when he tees up at the Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course for the Fiji International which starts on Thursday.
The 23-year-old Green has enjoyed a standout season so far, claiming three top-10 results, including two runner-up finishes in India and Chinese Taipei, to sit in fourth place on the Asian Tour Order of Merit.
Having enjoyed a relaxing sunset cruise in Fiji on Monday, Green believes he is ready for the challenge at the A$1.5 million (approximately US$1.14 million) event which is tri-sanctioned by the Asian, European and the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia for the first time.
The young Malaysian is wary of the blustery conditions at the Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course, which bared its teeth with swirling winds of up to 20 km per hour in the pro-am tournament today.
“The boat trip on Monday was really fun. It was something that I have never experienced before. It’s been a long time since I last got on a jet ski. It was really fun with the boys – Panuphol Pittayarat, Casey O’Toole and Ben Campbell. I like it a lot. It’s nice because it gets you away from golf,” said Green. “The course is easy without the wind but with the wind, it can be quite a beast! I think you need to be a good ball striker to get your way around here. It’s tight off the tee, especially when the wind comes, and it can get pretty tough.
“I like it in the wind though. It’s not going to be easy for anyone when the wind blows hard, obviously. It won’t be easy at all so we just have to see what the wind will do to us when the tournament starts. It will be a good test. It’s a fair course. The long hitters have an advantage as they can hit it far, if they want to hit it into a tighter spot. But if they don’t want to, they can always lay-up. It’s a pretty fair course. If you take the chance, you will be rewarded. It’s good, I like it. It’s a course that you have to think around well.
“Before coming here, I have heard about the strong winds here and getting into trouble here can be quite penalizing and it’s indeed true. It’s been great here in Fiji so far. I will definitely come back here again for a holiday. It’s comfortable and it’s like paradise but when you get to the course, you know you’re here to do your job.
“We have got a pretty strong field this week, with three Major winners. It’s been a solid season for me so far but we will see how it goes. Hopefully the weather holds up and I can make the cut comfortably, then we see how it’s going to be in the weekend.
Like Green, Thai prodigy Phachara Khongwatmai is also chasing his breakthrough victory on the region’s premier Tour. The 18-year-old Phachara is hoping a slight adjustment in his swing will pay off when he tees off in his tournament debut this week.
India’s Chikkarangappa S., who claimed a top-10 finish on home soil two weeks ago, will have his confidence boosted by memories of his past experience at the Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course, a venue where he last played there as an amateur six years ago.
Did you know?
- Green holds the record of being the first amateur to win on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) following his victory at the PGM Vascory Templer Park Championship in 2014. He turned professional in 2015 and added two more wins on the region’s secondary circuit in 2016.
- Green, who was ranked 12th in the world amateur rankings before joining the play-for-pay ranks, finished second on the 2016 ADT Order of Merit to earn his playing rights on the premier Asian Tour for the 2017 season.
- Green was invited by Tourism Fiji for a private boat cruise on Monday alongside Ben Campbell of New Zealand and fellow Asian Tour players Panuphol Pittayarat of Thailand and American Casey O’Toole. The players cruised out to the Malamala Island for a swim stop as well as some jet ski fun.
- Placed third on the Order of Merit, Phachara is the highest ranked Asian Tour player in the field this week. He has enjoyed two runner-up finishes in India and Australia so far this season.
- Phachara became the youngest winner on the ADT when he won in 2015 at the age of 15. He also holds the world record of being the youngest winner in a professional golf tournament when he won a domestic event in July 2013 as an amateur at the age of 14.
- Chikkarangappa represented his home country at the 2011 Nomura Cup, where he played two rounds as an amateur at the Natodola Bay Championship Golf Course. The 23-year-old finished tied-seventh in the individual category and third as a team alongside his compatriots.