Malaysia’s youngest touring pro begins his quest

Life-changing decisions often come on the back of small happenings, in some cases it only takes a singular happening to set the wheels in motion.

In Malaysian teenager Daeng Abdul Rahman’s case, the journey to deciding when to join the paid ranks was hastened by not one, but two events in his short yet meteoric elite amateur career.

At 15, he was already seen as a rising star in the national amateur team, of whom great things were expected in the 2015 Singapore SEA Games.

However, the Johor teen made his mark well before that date, first in a professional tournament and then in a leading regional amateur event.

In April, as part of preparations leading to the Games, Daeng and some of his national teammates set out to play on the Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) Tour for added exposure.

Daeng played in the PGM Danau Closed Championship with the intention of winning the amateur title. “That was my aim. I never expected to win the tournament,” he said.

Taking a one-stroke lead into the final round, he struggled on the front nine and then double-bogeyed the 11th at the Bangi course.

“I felt nervous after that, but fortunately I managed to score three birdies and a par at the final hole to seal my first win,” he recalled. Daeng’s 10-under winning total of 278 made him the youngest winner on the PGM Tour at 15 years and eight days old.

It was a morale-boosting win for the young golfer and, as an amateur golfer, had to forego the RM30,600 winner’s purse, which fell into the hands of Sukree Othman, who only assured himself of the purse after defeating Akhmal Tarmizee in a playoff.

Just weeks after his maiden win, Daeng pulled off another unexpected victory in the 28th MPI Saujana Amateur Championship.

He carded a four-under 68 to tie for second with Kevin Caesario Akbar of Indonesia on five-under 139 after the second round.

But Daeng faced the daunting prospect of making up the three-stroke deficit behind leader Johnson Poh of Singapore. The Singaporean was blazing an almost unassailable trail in the tournament after posting a six- under 66 to equal the Bunga Raya course record set by Australia’s Cory Crawford in 2014.

Daeng, who was in the same flight as Poh, kept his composure on the final day producing an even-par 72, while Poh got himself into deep trouble in the last few holes.

At the par-five, 15th, Poh missed a three-foot birdie putt, then he pulled his drive into deep rough at the next hole and at the 17th, he

pulled his tee shot again landing in the water. He three-putted and bogeyed the closing hole as well.

Daeng, meanwhile, hit 11 of the 14 fairways and was putting exceptionally well. He produced pars on the last three holes and the only player able to force a playoff was Indonesian Kevin Cesario who missed the crucial birdie putt.

The five-under 211 total ensured his second career win in just two months, bringing him great satisfaction. “My approaches were not great, but my putting really came in,” he said.

However, he admitted he wasn’t at his best in the 2015 SEA Games and failed to make an impression at the tough, uncompromising Serapong course at Sentosa Golf Club.

“I wasn’t feeling very well and the course was very tough,” he said. The golf event was also affected by constant rain delays as well.

2016 passed by relatively quietly as the 16-year-old continued to play extensively as an amateur with debuts in the Nomura Cup and the Asian Amateur. However, by the end of the year it was clear what was on his mind.

In January 2017, he tried to obtain his Asian Tour card in the Final Stage Qualifying School held in Bangkok, but a four-over second-round score left him well out of the Top 40, who earned their playing rights for the season.

“I was toying around with when the right time was for me to turn pro,” he said “Whether to do it after I play my final SEA Games (this August) or after the Maybank Championship.”

In the end, it came down to the Maybank Championship held at Saujana Golf and Country Club in February. “I told myself if I made the cut there, I will turn pro,” he revealed.

As it turned out, the golfing gods favoured the youngster as he emerged as the only amateur to make the cut in the tournament, co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours. He had a three-under 285 — 73-67-71-74 — to finish joint 47th with compatriot Gavin Kyle Green and three others.

“It was a great experience for me. It’s not often that you get to play with the top stars. Now I am looking forward to bigger challenges,” said Daeng then.

Daeng, who left his school Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Tunku Ismail in Johor in 2015, began his professional journey in March 2017, a month before his 17th birthday in April, making him the youngest touring pro in the country.

He does realise the big difference. “Every shot is for money. I am working now, in order to make money I have to play well,” he said.

Like most touring pros, Daeng’s goal is to play on the Asian Tour. “I plan to play in all the Asian Development Tour (ADT) events, both inside and outside Malaysia, as well as the PGM Tour,” he said.

“My aim is to make the Top five on the ADT to automatically earn my card. Otherwise, I will have to go back to Q school.”

Daeng is a little adrift in his ADT quest lying in 57th position after playing in seven tournaments with winnings of US$2,147 (RM9,211) (after the PGM Darulaman Championship). He lies in ninth spot on the PGM Tour with earnings of RM43,722 after seven outings.

Daeng, who is coached by his father Abdul Aziz, realises that he needs to up the ante, should he move to the Asian level. “Yes, I’m ready to put in the training should that happen.”

With time on his side, the young player — who uses TaylorMade clubs and is currently a brand ambassador for TPC Kuala Lumpur— will soon have to show he can turn his big ambitions into reality in the not too distant future. — Courtesy of Golf Malaysia

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