In-form Ervin Chang continued from where he left off after winning the Mirai Cup when he carded a superb five-under 67 to lead the Hilux Cup by one stroke over local hero Ben Leong at the Sabah Golf & Country Club here today.
The 24-year-old Kajang boy who was in a marquee group comprising Leong and Shahriffuddin Ariffin, started off his front nine with two birdies and three bogeys to make the turn in one under. He had a flawless second nine with four birdies thanks to a hot putter to shoot a four-under 32.
“It was a thrill playing against Ben and Shahriffuddin today,” said Chang who looked very composed throughout the 18 holes despite under hot conditions.
“The weather wasn’t too kind and it hardened the greens. It wasn’t the start I wanted but I’m glad I stayed focused and finished my round well,” he added.
Chang won the second leg in Kuching two weeks ago, beating Shahriffuddin by six strokes. The Hilux Cup is the third leg of the Toyota Tour that was launched in January. The opening event was the Tun Ahmad Sarji Trophy at Saujana GCC, won by Danny Chia who is playing on the Japan Seniors Tour this month.
Leong was happy playing a Toyota Tour event on a course where he honed his skills. “It was nice to see a small crowd waiting for me at the finishing hole. I’m only one stroke behind Ervin so I’m comfortable where I am, but there’s still plenty of golf ahead.”
Wafiyuddin Manaf surprised himself by finishing alone in third place when he carded a three-under 69, followed by Galven Green a further stroke adrift. Rookie pro Ryan Fernandez, Shahriffuddin and Aretha Pan were in joint fifth at one-under.
Wafiyuddin, pursuing a Masters in Sports Development, shot four birdies against a bogey. He hasn’t won a tournament since turning pro in 2015.
“I’ve come close but still I’d love to have one under my belt,” said Wafiyuddin.
Pan is one of three ladies competing against the men. The other two are Vivienne Chin (+4) and amateur Charlayne Chong (+8) who registered the only eagle of the day at the Par 4 eighth. Reigning Sabah Amateur Open champion Nasrullah Zulkifli is the leading amateur at one-over. He won the Best Amateur title at the Mirai Cup in Kuching.
Pan, who ran up five birdies in a row from the second hole, said the hot weather caused her to lose focus which was one of the reasons why she chalked up three bogeys in a row on the 12th, 13th and 14th holes.
“I’ll stick to my game plan and see how it works out tomorrow,” said Pan who is also competing on her home course.
Round One Scores
Top Ten & Ties
67 Ervin Chang (32-25)
68 Ben Leong (33-35)
69 Wafiyuddin Manaf (35-34)
70 Galven Green (37-33)
71 Aretha Pan (32-29), Shahriffuddin Ariffin (34-37), Ryan Fernandez (34-37)
72 Wilson Choo (37-35), Nicholas Fung (39-33)
73 Nasrullah Zulkifli (A) (36-37)