Festivities take a back seat for golfer Ervin

KUALA LUMPUR: With a golden opportunity to secure a coveted spot in the prestigious British Open on the line at the upcoming Malaysian Open golf championship, Ervin Chang refuses to let the festivities of the Chinese New Year (CNY) slow him down.

Ervin, 25, is sacrificing his celebrations to focus on his game, returning to training on the second day of the Year of the Dragon to ensure he arrives at the Mines Resort and Country Club in peak condition.

Despite his relatively short time as a professional golfer, Ervin has already made a name for himself over the past 18 months.

As Ervin prepares for his maiden appearance as an Asian Tour rookie, he is keenly aware of the importance of making an impression at the Malaysian Open.

The tournament, boasting a prize purse of US$1 million (RM4.76 million) and a prestigious Seagram trophy, offers more than just monetary rewards.

Every golfer in the field will be aiming to secure a spot at the 152nd British Open, set to take place at the Royal Troon Golf Club in South Ayrshire, Scotland, from July 18-21.

The top three finishers in the tournament who have not qualified through other means will earn their tickets to the fourth and final men's major championship of the year.

Though it may seem like a lofty goal, Ervin is confident it's within reach.

"I will take one day off, the first day of CNY, and resume my training and necessary prep work on the second day after picking up my golfer friend, Ian Snyman from South Africa, who has also signed up for the Malaysian Open," said Ervin.

"Establishing a positive mindset early on is crucial."

"As for making The British Open cut, it will be challenging considering the strong field battling for more than what is at stake. Certainly, it is achievable.

"But I always like to stay reasonably realistic and not overly optimistic about my chances. I will approach things with an open mind."

Gavin Green was the last Malaysian to feature in the British Open back in 2018 at the Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland. He made the cut and finished tied for 61st.

The only other two Malaysians who had competed at the British Open were Ian Steel (1996) and Danny Chia (2010).

After making history as the first Malaysian to secure two gold medals at the Hanoi Sea Games in 2022, Ervin seamlessly transitioned to the professional level, establishing himself as one of the country's top golfers.

His dominance was evident when he clinched the Order of Merit title during the 2023 Toyota Tour season. With a season total of RM151,796 from nine starts, Ervin's stellar performance included a notable victory at the Mirai Cup in Sarawak, along with five other top-five finishes.

While excelling on the domestic front, Ervin also left his mark on the Asian Development Tour, securing a spot in the top 10 on the second-tier circuit, thus earning a well-deserved promotion to the 2024 Asian Tour season.

Ervin is optimistic that his Asian Tour journey will unfold smoothly, propelling him up the ranks in the coming years.

His sights are set on following in the footsteps of compatriot Gavin, aiming to compete on the DP World Tour and, ultimately, the PGA Tour — a milestone no Malaysian golfer has reached thus far.

"I believe a growth mindset is necessary if we are not to remain stagnant in our performance. So, it is good for me to eventually venture forth and play on other tours like the PGA Tour or DP World Tour to nurture a growth mindset," said Ervin.

"To see such an ambition come to fruition, obviously, I would need to perform well on the current tour and strive for performance par excellence with support from my sponsors, family, fans, and friends."

If there's one shining example of a humble player skyrocketing from the ADT to the PGA Tour in just three years, it's Tom Kim of South Korea. He's currently the world No. 17 with two victories to show on the US flagship circuit.

"I am definitely inspired by Tom Kim's achievements. He shows everyone that it is possible to play through the ranks and be where he is today," said Ervin.

"He is among those who dared to take the road less travelled and made it when it mattered most. I am sure he is a source of inspiration for many aspiring rookies, including me."

Although Ervin can't afford a lengthy celebration, this CNY will still be one to cherish. After all, this marks the second successive he gets to be with his loved ones back home.

"I was always playing tournaments for my college back in the US from 2017 till 2022. I did not celebrate CNY for six years with my family but celebrated team victories instead," he recalled.

"So, it was pretty precious last year celebrating CNY again."

As is typical for a young man his age during family gatherings, Ervin has prepared himself to field questions from relatives about his career progress.

"This CNY will be more precious, as I have to field questions from relatives on when I get to play the DP World Tour, the PGA Tour, or the Olympics," he shared.

"Most people don't realise that the golf pathway is fraught with obstacles, setbacks, and hard work and that it's not all glamour but mostly grit, grind, and grunts."

Before hitting the course, Ervin eagerly anticipates indulging in some of his favourite dishes prepared by his grandmother.

"My favourite CNY dish is my 90-year-old grandma's speciality, which she only cooks during festive occasions like CNY or Winter Solstice Day.

"The dish is a hearty stew made with dried oysters, bean curd strips, diced carrots, sea cucumber, and Chinese cabbage. I cherish it because it brings back fond memories of my childhood when everyone gathered together to enjoy a meal.

"It's also a rare treat, as we only get to taste it once or twice a year. As for cookies, I'm not particularly fond of them."

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