Kajang [SELANGOR]: Rookie Muhd Afif Mohd Fathi was not interested to plod around uncompetitively and just make up the numbers in his senior debut at the 28th Asia-Pacific Amateur Golf Team Championship for the Nomura Cup.
The reigning national junior champion took the bulls by the horns, firing an opening four-under 68 to help Malaysia get off to an encouraging start at the Sungai Long Golf & Country Club on Thursday.
Coming off the blocks strongly, Muhd Afif Mohd Razif eagled the par-five second before adding two further birdies to make the turn on four-under. But the Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) undergraduate let it slip with back-to-back bogeys at the end to settle for a two-under 70.
Young Rhaasrikanesh Kanavathi carded a battling 73 – his one-over effort counting towards Malaysia’s five-under 211 team score – which leaves them in a share of seventh alongside Nomura Cup specialists Australia.
Regional powerhouse Thailand and New Zealand are seven strokes clear in the lead after recording matching 12-under 204 overalls.
South East Asia (SEA) Games bronze medallist Kammalas Namuangruk led the way for the War Elephants with a blistering eight-under 64 while New Zealand talisman Daniel Hillier returned with a splendid five-under 67.
28th Asia-Pacific Amateur Golf Team Championship – First round standings
204 – 🇹🇭 Thailand, 🇳🇿 New Zealand
206 – 🇹🇼 Chinese Taipei
207 – 🇰🇷 Republic of Korea
209 – 🇯🇵 Japan
210 – 🇮🇩 Indonesia
211 – 🇲🇾 MALAYSIA, 🇦🇺 Australia
213 – 🇨🇳 China, 🇵🇭 Philippines
214 – 🇸🇬 Singapore
215 – 🇮🇳 India
216 – 🇸🇦 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
218 – 🇭🇰 Hong Kong
226 – 🇵🇰 Pakistan
234 – 🇳🇵 Nepal
236 – 🇫🇯 Fiji
238 – 🇬🇺 Guam
244 – 🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates, 🇶🇦 Qatar
247 – 🇧🇭 Bahrain
254 – 🇲🇳 Mongolia
273 – 🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan
Afif struck four birdies in a flawless display, including a run of three consecutive birdies at the start of his back nine.
“Overall, I was satisfied with how my game turned up on the second nine. I was struggling a little bit with my approach shots on the front nine, which didn’t leave with much makeable birdie opportunities.
“At the turn, I told myself that I shouldn’t be afraid of going for it – this is a big event after all and I can’t be over-awed by the occasion. Fortunately, I got a birdie on the 10th to get my rhythm. I missed the green on the 11th but managed to hole a 15-footer from the apron and added another good birdie on 12 after a delicate chip,” said the 17-year-old, who has just completed his O-Levels.
The youngster, who has honed his game on the burgeoning Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) Tour, is ready to help Malaysia achieve their top-10 target at the championship.
“You got to take your chances when they come your way. I missed out on the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games in August and the Putra Cup (men’s South-East Asian Team Championships) in September due to school and other commitments. This week, my goal is to contribute a good number to the team’s daily score. Not just me – if all of us can do that, there’s no reason why we can’t maintain a top-ten finish,” he added.
Skipper Chan Tuck Soon, who is making his second appearance in the biennial meet, will look to bounce back after an opening 74.