The 2023 Toyota Tour tees off with the Tun Ahmad Sarji Trophy at Saujana Golf & Country Club on March 8-11, featuring a strong field of 85 men and eight ladies who will battle it out in the RM230,000 season-opener.
The second edition of the tournament will see a mix of established stars and emerging talents pit their skills against each other at Saujana’s Bunga Raya Course.
Starting out as favourite among the men will be 2022 runner-up Danny Chia, who heads into the event with his confidence on a high after shooting 62 in his last competitive round at the opening event of the Thai Senior PGA Tour two weeks ago. Although he lost in a playoff to local stalwart Udon Duangdecha, the Malaysian legend was elated with his career low round.
“It is a huge confidence booster. I shot 10-under-par, the best score of my career, so definitely happy with it,” said Chia, who turned 50 last November.
Chia finished second to current Malaysian number one Gavin Green by just one shot in last year’s inaugural Tun Ahmad Sarji Trophy. With Green not in the field as he is playing in a DP World Tour event in Kenya, Chia is looking forward to going one better.
“If I play well, I feel like I can win even against the young players. I like the Bunga Raya layout as a lot of the holes don’t favour the longer hitters, which is good for me now because I’m no longer in that category. It’s a thinking golf course,” noted Chia.
The two-time Asian Tour winner hailed the formation of the Toyota Tour through the partnership between the Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) Tour, UMW Toyota Motor and MST Golf. “It’s great to have corporates like Toyota take an interest in the tour. I think this is the first time Toyota is sponsoring a golf event and I heard there will be some changes like playing music at the tees. To me any change is good, it’s great to try something new,” noted Chia.
There will be a Green in the field this week, Gavin’s younger brother Galven who also enjoyed a Thai confidence booster recently with a T11 finish in the All Thailand Golf Tour’s Singha E-San Open.
“I found something in my swing that’s been working well, so I think it’s going to be a good week. Playing in Thailand with all the strong Thai players is always a challenge and it’s definitely a confidence booster to do well,” noted the 23-year-old.
Green finished T13 in last year’s Tun Ahmad Sarji Trophy and will be hoping to break through for his maiden win on the local circuit.
“The Bunga Raya Course is a layout that you need to plot your way around and not just attack. Just make sure your ball is on the fairway and try to give yourself birdie chances,” he said.
Other players to watch out for include Amir Nazrin, who earlier this year became the first Malaysian to win on the All Thailand Golf Tour with a one-shot victory in the Boonchu Ruangkit Championship, and Ervin Chang, the 2022 SEA Games double gold medallist who turned pro last year and was recently named the Asian Tour’s 2023 Kyi Hla Han Future Champions Award winner. Also part of the field will be 2022 PGM Tour winners Paul San and Wilson Choo.
The men will compete for RM200,000 in prize money with RM35,000 going to the winner, while the women play for a prize pot of RM30,000 with the champion taking home RM10,000. The ladies field consists of professionals Aretha Pan, who won twice on the PGM Tour last year, Ainil Bakar, Dianne Luke, Yip Sean Yi and rookie Jocelyn Chee, who will be joined by amateurs Aishwarya Anpalagan, Charlayne Chong and Nur Batrisyia Balqis.
The winning pro-am team of (L to R) Paul San (pro), Steven Tan, Tang Ai Leen and Dato’ Ir. Mohd Sohimin Mohd Alayedin with Saujana Golf & Country Club President Tan Sri Megat Zaharuddin Megat Mohd Nor.
The championship was preceded by the Tun Ahmad Sarji Charity Pro-Am, organised by PGM today at the Bunga Raya Course where 24 professionals teamed up with 72 amateurs in a modified scramble format. A minute’s silence was observed before the shotgun tee-off and during the prize-giving lunch in honour of the late Malaysian golf legend M. Ramayah, who passed away yesterday following a battle with cancer. The event succeeded in raising RM10,000 for the Pusat Pengajian Al-Quran and RM10,000 for Ramayah’s family.
The Tun Ahmad Sarji Trophy will be followed by eight more closed tournaments including stops in Sarawak and Sabah. The 2023 season will culminate in the RM350,000 Toyota Championship at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club on November 14-17, which will be a co-sanctioned event with the Asian Development Tour (ADT).