Airil aims for home comfort

Airil Rizman Zahari © Ravi Chitty/The ClubHouse

Kangar: A return to the familiar surroundings of the Kelab Golf Putra is a welcome boost for Airil Rizman Zahari as he continues his career revival of sorts at the RM125,000 Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) Perlis Classic, which begins tomorrow.

The 33-year-old, who picked up the craft as a tender 10-year-old at the golf club shadowed by the imposing Nakawan Range is looking forward for a successful return home as he looks to build-on in impressive tied-fifth finish at the PGM Sime Darby Harvard Classic.

” I’m really looking forward to playing in the first PGM event in Perlis as it’s been a while since I had a chance to play competitively back in my hometown. “I grew up playing the course and have had some fond memories here. It was rather unfortunate that last year’s leg here had to be moved to another venue as a result of the massive flooding which affected the golf club,” said Airil.

Highly decorated as an amateur with 16 titles, Airil dominated the local amateur scene during a three-year period from 1999 to 2001 when he was ranked as the nation’s top amateur. He joined the paid ranks in 2002 on the back of a successful final amateur season where he led the national team to the gold medal in the 2001 SEA Games alongside fellow professional and Perlis-born Sahal Saedin.

Success on the domestic professional circuit followed swiftly as he chalked up eight professional victories, including three in 2005 that saw him top the Malaysian Tour Order of Merit. Airil then joined the more competitive Asian Tour where he became the second Malaysian to secure a victory at the 2007 Pakistan Open before a slump in form saw his career take a nosedive.

“It’s been quite a roller-coaster ride since but I’m nearing my best again – even if it’s still work in process. I finished top ten in eight of my 16 starts last year and came close twice to winning in Impian [Golf & Country Club] as well as in Terengganu, so I hope to work on it and make some subtle improvements,” added Airil, who finished 10th position in the 2011 PGM Order of Merit with total earnings of RM73,644.50.

Meanwhile, Shaifubari Muda who claimed the season-opener in Sungai Petani last month has his own reason to do well at the tough 6,983-yard layout designed by the Raja of Perlis Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin ibni Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail. “I set the course record of 69 en-route to a victory there about seven years ago and it remains unbroken. That definitely gives me the added initiative to do well here this week,” shared Shaifubari.

A total of 65 players including eight amateurs will tee-off the second leg of the domestic circuit including five qualifiers, namely Kelana Ibrahim (69), Zalizan Mad Har (74), Sulaiman Ibrahim(75), Keegan Kam (76) and Zaizuri Omar (76), who made the mark in the pre-qualifying today.

Notable absentees this week include Danny Chia and Ben Leong, who are participating in the Asian Tour’s ICTSI Philippines Open while Shaaban Hussin is currently on pilgrimage to Mecca.

PGM Order of Merit (after PGM Sime Darby Harvard Classic)
1) Shaifubari Muda RM21,000
2) S. Murthy RM14125
3) Wilson Choo RM7812.50
4) Danny Chia RM7812.50
5) Airil Rizman Zahari RM4087.50
6) Md Rashid Ismail RM4087.50
7) S. Sivachandhran RM4087.50
8) Mohd Amli Mohiyadeen RM4087.50
9) Solhairy Sharif RM2350.00
10) R. Nachimuthu RM2350.00