28-Year-Old Golf Champion Arie Irawan Dies of ‘Natural Causes’

28-Year-Old Golf Champion Arie Irawan Dies of ‘Natural Causes’
A file photo of Malaysian Professional Golfer Arie Irawan in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Feb. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Daniel Chan, file)
Richard Szabo

A multi-prize winning professional golfer has suddenly died of “natural causes” while competing in the PGA Tour Series-China.

Authorities found Malaysian born Arie Irawan, 28, deceased in his hotel room on April 7. Sanya Championship officials declared that same day the man had died of “apparent natural causes.”

Irawan, who has played on the Asian Tour, the Asian Development Tour, and the PGA Tour China, missed the 36-hole cut on April 5, at Sanya Yalong Bay Golf Club in the southern island province of Hainan.

Organizers confirmed the official coroner’s report was still being completed at the time of publication.

“The PGA Tour and the China Golf Association grieve at this loss of one of our members and share sincere condolences with Arie’s wife, Marina, and his parents, Ahmad and Jeny,” the tour told The Associated Press. “When something of this magnitude occurs in the golf world, we all grieve at the same time.”

Event organizers have canceled the final round of the tournament.

“Out of respect for the family, officials canceled the final round of the Sanya Championship,“ the tour said. ”It’s a true tragedy what has happened. Sometimes, though, things happen in life that are bigger than a sporting event.”

PGA Tour Executive Director Todd Rhinehart, who befriended Irawan, said he would always remember a historical moment when the golfer became one of three Malaysians who qualified in Kuala Lumpur, representing the highest in the tournament’s history back in 2015.
“He was 24 at the time and was anxious and nervous to be playing in his first PGA Tour event,” Rhinehart said in a public statement. “He was not only one of Malaysia’s most-talented golfers, he was also an incredible young man who served as a passionate ambassador for junior golf in the country.”

American golf pro Trevor Sluman, who won the tournament with an 18-under total of 198 for the first time since graduating from the University of Louisville in 2015, expressed his condolences to Irawan’s beloved ones.

“My heart goes out to Arie’s family and his beautiful wife, Marina,” Sluman said. “Along with the rest of the tour, we are thinking about them at this time. It’s very bittersweet ... and I think the rest of the year will be dedicated to Arie and the impact he had on this tour.”

Fellow Americans Matt Gilchrest, Max McGreevy, and Michael Perras tied for second, two strokes behind.

Fellow American Golfer Kevin Techakanokboon, who shared the same hotel room with Irawan, described Irawan as a friend who would often overanalyze his performance.

“I would always try to find ways to get us to disconnect once we were off the golf course,” he said in a public statement. “We would definitely do stuff to get us to relax and get ready for the next day and not necessarily talk about golf.”

Techakanokboon also found Irawan to be popular with many people.

“There weren’t a lot of guys who he didn’t get along with. Everybody was touched by the guy in some way, and everybody has Arie stories to tell,” he said.

The pair liked saving money, so they would often share a hotel room when Irawan’s wife was not traveling with him.

“That week, I was playing pretty well, but Arie missed the cut,” Techakanokboon said. “Nothing really prepares you for something like this. How am I supposed to tell his wife what happened? How am I going to face his parents? There was just so much that I didn’t know how to say and so much that was left unsaid to Arie.”

When Irawan’s aunt and parents Ahmad and Jeny, arrived in Sanya, they seemed surprisingly resilient and composed.

“You could really feel how much they all love him and miss him. You could see it in their eyes and hear it in their voices,” Techakanokboon said.  “We all did our very best to hold it together and be strong for them in their time of suffering.”

Ahmad pleaded with Techakanokboon not to put his life on hold and just keep minding his business.

“‘Don’t stop,’ he said to us. ‘It’s not what Arie would have wanted for you to do. Look back at all of the good times that you shared with Arie and be happy,’” Techakanokboon said.

Richard Szabo is an award-winning journalist with more than 12 years' experience in news writing at mainstream and niche media organizations. He has a specialty in business, tourism, hospitality, and healthcare reporting.
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