Wilson nets maiden pro title

Wilson Choo with his PGAM Clearwater Classic trophy © The ClubHouse

Batu Gajah: An emotional Wilson Choo sampled the sweet taste of victory after clinching his maiden professional title at the Professional Golfers Association of Malaysia (PGAM) Clearwater Classic on Thursday.

The 23-year-old Kuala Lumpur native left it late at Clearwater Sanctuary Resort, draining a clutch 10-footer for birdie on the finishing hole to close with a round of even-par 72 at the 54-hole event, which offered a total prize purse of RM100,000. Wilson totalled three-under 213 to steer ahead of  the trio of Zurie Harun (71), S. Murthy (71) and Lim Eng Seng (69).

Clearwater’s resident professional Airil Rizman Zahari dropped an uncharacterised bogey on the 18th to card an identical even-par 72 to Mohd Hanafiah Jamil’s earlier effort to take a share of fifth on 216. P. Gunasagaran was a further shot back on the back of a solid closing 70.

With Murthy and Eng Seng patiently waiting at the clubhouse with a two-under 214 overall, all eyes was on the final group of Wilson, Zurie and Airil, who were level on on two-under through 17th. All three were safely on the fairway with their opening shots but could only find the greenside rough with their follow-ups.

Airil looked to have an advantage after receiving a GUR relief but duffed his approach short of the green while Wilson and Zurie found the green comfortably with an equal chance for birdie. But it was the youngest of the trio that prevailed under glaring pressure as he seized the opportunity to pocket his winner’s cheque worth RM15,000.

“It was an emotional finish,” said Wilson, holding back tears.”I definitely tried to handle the situation much better today as I have been in a few last group out since early this year but I always got a bit nervous on the back nine and fumble at the end,” he shared.

Despite a fine opening two rounds, Wilson endured a shaky start to his final round but recovered well to make the turn on one-under 35. “I dropped a shot on 13th after a bad tee-shot and followed that with another bogey. Zurie and Airil were really beginning to crank up the pressure and I felt really under the heat.

“Coming into the final stretch, I just told myself that the chance was there for the taking. I had to refocus on my game and try to grab that opportunity to win my first title,” added Wilson, who turned pro in 2010.

Wilson admitted that he felt the nerves as he was lining up his winning putt. “I was telling my caddie hat I didn’t want to come back and play that hole again. I read the line a few times and had a look at it again and again.

The young professional was delighted to have transformed his early season form to a victory before 2012 was up. “It was not about waiting but it was my desire to win an event this year based on my early season form. For much of the year, I gave myself the chance – I put myself in the position to win but it didn’t materialise. I could see that from early this year, my hitting and distance had improved.

“Everything got better but it was all in the head – come to the final few holes and I blew up my chances. My coach [Tony Maloney] told me that I have to be ready to step up when the opportunity knocks and I did just that today.”

Leading final round scores
213 – Wilson Choo 72-69-72
214 – Zurie Harun 69-74-71, S. Murthy 72-71-71, Lim Eng Seng 72-73-69
215 – Airil Rizman Zahari 71-72-72, Mohd Hanafiah Jamil 71-72-72
216 – P. Gunasagaran 73-73-70
217 – Md Rashid Ismail 73-72-72, Anis Helmi Hassan 74-72-71, Mohd Amli Mohayideen 72-75-70