KUALA LUMPUR: Gavin Kyle Green made history by becoming the first Malaysian to win the Asian Tour Order of Merit after an intense 12-month battle with several of the region’s best golfers.
Green’s accomplishment is a watershed moment in Malaysia’s golfing history as no player from the country has ever come close to laying claim to the honour of being Asia’s number one golfer.
With his latest win, the 23-year-old is now the second youngest golfer to win the accolade since 2004, when the Asian Tour was established. Korea’s Seungyul Noh was 19 years old when he won the merit title in 2010.
The big-hitting Malaysian opened up an unassailable lead on the merit list following his tied-19th finish at the R16.5 million (approx. US$1.2 million) Joburg Open, earning US$13,277.40 which gave him a total of US$585,813.46 this season.
“After 12 months, here we are, on top! It is an amazing feeling. There were so many good guys who had a chance to win it. Thankfully, this week came around well. I’m going to enjoy most it,” said Green.
By finishing on top of the Order of Merit, Green has earned a five-year exemption on the Asian Tour and spots at next year’s The Open as well as the WGC-Mexico Championship.
He will also get to represent Team Asia at the upcoming EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM, to be contested at Glenmarie Golf and Country Club in January 2018.
Green’s 2017 season started on the back of a promising year in 2016 where he won twice on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) before finishing second on the ADT Order of Merit to secure his Asian Tour card for 2017.
After finishing tied 59th, 68th and 47th at the SMBC Singapore Open, Leopalace21 Myanmar Open and Maybank Championship respectively early in the year, Green’s season came alive with a second-placed finish at the Hero Indian Open.
“I started off okay in the season. Then the Hero Indian Open came along and I finished second. I stayed in it there, remained patient, and then the win came along,” said Green.
That performance in India sparked a brilliant run of form where he would go on to secure a tied-second finish at the Yeangder Heritage and tied-10th result at the Thailand Open.
He was on the verge of his breakthrough at the Shinhan Donghae Open but several costly missed putts on the final day saw him finishing second again.
The Malaysian’s maiden Asian Tour win finally came at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters a fortnight later in Chinese Taipei.
His stylish two-shot victory in the seaside town of Tamsui was not only momentous but also emotional as he dedicated that win in memory of his late grandfather, who has been his constant supporter and motivator.
“He really wanted to see me win and I really tried to win it for him in Korea (at the Shinhan Donghae Open). I didn’t and he passed away. It was tough because he was in Malaysia. I think his death pushed me to try harder and win. He was definitely with me today,” said Green in his victory speech then.
After his win in Chinese Taipei, Green took over the lead on the Order of Merit, a position he has never relinquished since.
The Malaysian had ample chances in the season to wrap up the merit title, but it was only until in South Africa when everything fell into place.
“It was a huge emotional deal after my grandfather passed away, especially after the win in Mercuries Taiwan Masters. Coming into the last couple of events, I really wanted to close it but it was so tough because I had so much on my mind.
“It was frustrating I didn’t shut the door earlier. This week, I went out and did my own thing and things clicked well. It has been a long journey, but there’s a lot of happiness. This title win is overwhelming and it will be a huge for my career. Hopefully from here, I just keep getting better,” said Green, who will have the opportunity to finish the year on an even higher note as he will be competing at the Asian Tour season-ending US$750,000 Indonesian Masters this week.
The winner of the Indonesian Masters will receive a prize purse of US$135,000 as well as a minimum of 20 Official Golf World Ranking points and an invitation to the WGC – Bridgestone Invitational in 2018.