Shahriffuddin, boy wonder from Melaka

He’s eyeing greater success in 2018

COURTESY OF GOLF MALAYSIA

Anyone looking at golfer Shahriffuddin Ariffin may not suspect the deep talent lying within. The slightly built teenager showed in 2017 he had the goods to become an even better player.

The 19-year-old started golf at the tender age of four in Melaka at the driving range at Tiara Melaka Golf & Country Club. But the difference was his upbringing under the guiding hand of his resident pro father, Ariffin Omar.

“Of course he was taught all the golfing skills through the years, but later, especially when he was thinking about turning pro, I advised him a lot on having manners,” recalled Ariffin.

“Hold your head high, look at people when they talk to you, don’t shy away. You’re a professional, therefore, you must act like one; that’s what I told him,” he added.

“He is very concerned about discipline, etiquette and conduct,” related Shahriffuddin. “He says, I must carry myself as a professional does, hold my head up, and look and greet people.”

The father-son combination seems to be clicking well. Ariffin follows his son to most tournaments, except for those in Sabah and Sarawak.

In the early days, he used to carry the bag, but has since decided to watch from the sidelines.

Ariffin used to play the former TDC Tour — playing alongside the likes of Kyi Hla Han, Jeev Milkha Singh and others — and provides a lot of insight to improve his young son’s game.

He has taught Shahriffuddin how to use the rangefinder, helped strengthen the way he selects his clubs to play certain shots, and showed him how to manage different types of courses set-up differently.

“On holes where there are fairway bunkers, I was taught that it is better to use a 3-wood as most greens are reachable with an iron,” commented Shahriffuddin.

Shahriffuddin is one of the longer hitting players on the Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) Tour, averaging 275m. Though he can hit drives past 300m, he is also mindful about being on the fairway.

“Sometimes I do have problems with my driving, especially when I’m off the fairway. On courses which are tight, I’d rather use my 3-wood, which gives me enough distance and I can hit an iron approach into the green,” he said.

Golf has been an integral part of his life since his school days at SMK Sri Gading in Melaka where he used to head to the driving range after school at 3pm, and attend to his school work only at night.

He was still a Fourth Former when he made his first splash at the 2015 Danau Closed Championship.

He finished a memorable career-best fifth on five-under 283, a placing that boosted his confidence considerably.

“The first two rounds were a struggle, but I managed to regain my focus and finished strongly with 68 and 67. I think my ball striking was good, I sank a lot of long putts and my short game was strong,” he recalled.

In addition, 2016 was a challenging year and a long learning curve for the youngster who was finishing his last year in school then.

It was in 2017 where Shahriffuddin showed he was capable of beating the big boys, like Danny Chia and Ben Leong, when his game was on song.

His long-awaited victory came rightfully at his home course at the PGM Tiara Closed Championship in August, where he beat a highly fancied field for his breakthrough win.

En route to the win, he scored his lowest scoring four-round performance — carding a 17-under 271 total with rounds of 67, 66, 67 and 71, beating three Asian Tour winners in the process, namely Leong by one shot, and Chia and Airil Rizman by five shots. Experienced campaigner Sukree Othman was fifth, six shots behind.

“My ball striking was good. It was one of those days when everything was functioning well. But I must say, my short game was exceptional and I was putting very well,” he related.

But it was not a flash in the pan performance as Shahriffuddin continued to play consistently in the circuit. In the final event at the PGM Maybank Players’ Championships, held at Templer Park Country Club, he finished third on six-under 282, returning home with RM18,973.

The PGM Order of Merit for 2017 ranked Shahriffuddin in the No 1 position with total earnings of RM137,962, ahead of more experienced players like R Nachimuthu, Arie Irawan, Sukree and Khor Kheng Hwai.

Like most players finishing high in the PGM Order of Merit, Shahriffuddin eyes a bigger pond. He plans to play in as many Asian Development Tour events as he can in 2018 with an eye to gaining one of the five cards available for the Asian Tour.

“That’s my aim, to play on the Asian Tour against better competition so that I can improve myself,” he commented.

With age on his side and his knowledgeable coach and father by his side, it appears the sky is the limit for this potent combo from Melaka.