Kajang, SELANGOR: Fresh from clinching his professional breakthrough a fortnight ago, Shahriffuddin Ariffin is eyeing another title run at the Professional Golf Association of Malaysia (PGAM) Players’ Championship presented by Maybank, which starts Tuesday.
The RM200,000 tournament features a field of 73 professionals and two amateurs with the nation’s top four – Gavin Kyle Green, Danny Chia, Nicholas Fung and Ben Leong all missing out due to playing commitments on the Asian Tour.
In their absence, Shahriffuddin headlines a strong field of notable local winners, including Nachimuthu Ramasamy, Khor Kheng Hwai, Daeng Abdul Rahman Abdul Aziz as well as 2015 PGA Championship winner Sukree Othman.
The Melaka-based professional has enjoyed the best year of his fledgling career, garnering six top-ten finishes on the domestic circuit before securing an all-important maiden win at the Tiara Melaka Championship on August 26.
The one-stroke victory over former Asian Tour winner Leong proved a vindication of sorts for Shahriffuddin, who took the plunge into the paid ranks in 2014, forgoing an amateur career to begin learning the trade the hard way.
“It’s been a long time coming and to capture my first win on my home course was something special. It was a proud moment, especially for my dad (fellow PGA of Malaysia member Ariffin Omar). It was he who encouraged me to earn my playing card and supported me through the tough initial years. I’d be the first to admit that it wasn’t easy but there is no real substitute for hard work and perseverance.
“Every top-ten finish this year has been an opportunity that I failed to convert and I wasn’t about to slip up again in my own backyard. I know Ben (Leong) was going to charge me down during the final round but I held firm under pressure to lift the title,” shared Shariffuddin, who celebrated his 18th birthday on September 10.
A new dimension to his game and a never-die attitude has proved the perfect formula for the youngster, who nonetheless has his feet firmly on the ground ahead of this week’s tournament.
“Past results count for little. Everyone comes into the tournament with an equal chance, so it boils down to putting together four good rounds and hopefully, you do better than your fellow playing mates,” added Shahriffuddin, who finished second behind Leong at the Sime Darby Impian Championship earlier this year.