Sime Darby nurtures Jean’s professional career

Jean (third from right) receives the scholarship from Jegathesan (third from left)  as KLGCC general manager Robert John Bird, Sime Darby Foundation CEO Yatela Zainal Abidin and Jean’s parents look on

Kuala Lumpur, June 9: Malaysia’s leading light Chua Tze Jean received a further boost to her burgeoning professional career today after receiving a three-year sponsorship worth RM180,000 (approx. US$60,000) from Sime Darby Foundation at the Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club.

The United States-based professional, who is currently plying her trade in the LPGA Futures Tour, will receive assistance in the form of sponsorship for world-class coaching as well as towards funding her tournament entry fees. Jean, who famously won the Thailand LPGA Open on her maiden professional outing in August 2009, has been making inroads on the professional circuits this year.

The 24-year-old started the year with a list of impressive showings on the Ladies European Tour, notably when she finished tied-23rd at the ANZ RACV Ladies Masters.

In mid-May, she set a career milestone when qualified for her first Major after winning the US Women’s Open sectional qualifier in North Carolina. Jean continued her major strides with another sparkling performance when she tied for second placing at the Ladies Titan Tire Challenge over the weekend, to currently lie third on the development tour’s Money List.

Sime Darby Foundation gverning council member Tan Sri Dato’ Dr. M Jegathesan explained the rationale behind the awarding of the scholarship. “We truly believe in her talent and would like to reward Jean in her pursuit of excellence with this scholarship under the foundation’s pillar of youth, strength and recreation.

“We have witnessed her commitment and progress and we hope that this small sponsorship will act as a catalyst in her development to become a world-class player,” he said.

“We are confident that Jean is an outstanding representative for Malaysia on the global stage and serves as an inspiration for all young people in this country. She has successfully combined elite sport with her studies at university and now her dedication to her professional career serves as a model pathway for all Malaysians,” added Jegathesan on the Wake Forest University graduate.

As part of the sponsorship, Sime Darby Foundation will engage the services of highly regarded international coach Ian Triggs, who will spend six weeks a year travelling and working with Jean, with the goal of her realising her full golfing potential on the world stage.

“After working with her in the run-up to the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia last year, Triggs declared that Jean has the potential to become one of the top-20 players in the world. He also stated that Jean is an outstanding athlete with a great short game as well as possessing an impressive swing. Most of all, the veteran Australian coach was impressed with Jean’s exceptional work rate,” shared Jegathesan.

“Together with Kelly Tan Guat Chen, who was the recipient of the Sime Darby Foundation Star Scholarship award earlier this year, we believe that this duo will form the nation’s vanguard for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where golf will make a return to world-class spectacle,” he added.

Jean was delighted with the scholarship award and thanked the foundation for the assistance. “I cannot thank Sime Darby Foundation enough. The foundation gave me the opportunity to play in front a huge audience at home at last year’s Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia and, now, to support me for the next three years is something I could not have imagined,” said a jubilant Jean, who finished tied-53th in the inaugural edition of the event last year.

“Being able to work with Ian for extended periods across the season will definitely help my game, as will the support on entry fees and the chance to compete in LPGA Qualifying School in 2011,” she added, noting that her immediate target was to put on a good showing in the US Women’s Open next month and maintain her top-10 position on the Futures Tour Money List, which will earn her an automatic membership into the main tour next year.

In another development, Jean and Kelly, who finished as the leading local player in a commendable placing of 32nd at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia 2010, will be extended sponsor’s exemption to this year’s tournament.

The nation’s leading female professional and amateur golfer respectively, will join dozens of the world’s best players at the second edition of the LPGA Malaysia at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club’s East Course from October 13-16.