Bright future for golf in Brunei

Fadhil Yunus

The emergence of young and aspiring golfers in the country who have taken the sport by storm has led to a shift in power, with youth stepping into the spotlight.

As the younger generation excels with victories in major tournaments, their contribution to the golfing community represents a fresh challenge to golfers with decades of experience.

Brunei Darussalam duo Mohd Aritz Maldini bin Haji Abdul Majid and Awangku Mohd Syakir bin Pengiran Ali rose to prominence as young talents who blossomed over the last few years in the domestic scene and showed their class against the country’s leading golfers.

In fact, two of the three last winners of the Baiduri Masters were represented by youth as records tumbled with the youngest winner.

The passing of the baton from experienced seniors to youth was best described when Mohd Aritz Maldini bagged the Baiduri Masters title last year, a major tournament in Brunei and arguably the country’s most prestigious event in the golfing calendar.

Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Awang Haji Aminuddin Ihsan bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Haji Abidin and Mohd Aritz Maldini bin Haji Majid. PHOTO: FADHIL YUNUS

He became the tournament’s youngest winner in its history at the age of just 18, joining the likes of Qawim and multiple winner Seruji bin Haji Setia.

Perhaps an example of how the golfing landscape evolved in favour of youth is Maldini’s defining moment of triumph when he sunk a birdie in the 18th hole to win the championship.

With a multi-talented field including defending champion Johari bin Haji Ahmad, who is coincidentally his mentor and a player who went on a stunning run of five titles in six tournaments, Maldini was the clubhouse leader on the first day of the competition.

While fierce competition among the chasing pack resulted in him being unseated from the top spot on the penultimate day of the tournament, Mohd Aritz Maldini’s time was not to be ruined as his form catapulted him into the lead with one stroke on the 17th hole on the final day.

Equally impressive was his contemporary Awangku Mohd Syakir who won the historic Pantai Mentiri Amateur Open two years ago and nearly defended his title a year later as he narrowly lost out to Suhaimi bin Haji Ibrahim.

Mohd Aritz Maldini came in second place during the 2018 edition of the tournament, a feat from both players which provided the biggest indication yet that youth represents the future of the golfing scene.

The youth surge was again visible when Awangku Mohd Syakir became the overnight leader on the opening day of the Pantai Mentiri Amateur Open.

Awangku Mohd Syakir established his presence in the regional scene after he emerged winner of the Labuan Amateur Golf Open Championship in November last year. With this feat, he became the second Bruneian golfer to win the title since Seruji Haji Setia won it twice in 1993 and 1998.

The up and rising golfers were slowly showing their potential as youth dominated back-to-back tournaments.

In September 2019, Mohd Aritz Maldini bagged the 3rd Women Business Council (WBC) Charity Golf Tournament title with his national teammate Awangku Mohd Syakir taking third place.

A month later, Awangku Mohd Syakir took down the Brunei Council on Social Welfare (MKM) golf tournament at his favoured Pantai Mentiri Golf Club course.

Another player that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath is Qawim Fakhri Aslimon, with the golfer leading a wave of young players with his victory in the Baiduri Masters.

Golf runs in the family as his brother Qazzri Fakhri is also a regular competitor on the local golfing scene and one of many who stands a good chance of winning any of the local tournaments.

Qawim has always envisioned winning the Baiduri Masters since he was a young boy and in 2017 his childhood dream was realised as he overcame a tense playoff against eventual runner-up Johari.

The golfing star, who is a well-respected player among his peers, won three domestic titles prior to his Baiduri Masters triumph, including back-to-back Pusat Ehsan Charity Tournament titles, undoubtedly one of three major trophies in the country. The Pusat Ehsan Charity tournament is also one of the longest running tournaments in Brunei as Qawim carved his name into the record books.

Qawim triumphed in a world amateur golf tournament in Malaysia and the Pantai Mentiri Amateur Open in the same year.