Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia will be deprived of the service of leading amateur Gavin Kyle Green for the upcoming South East Asian (SEA) Games in Jakarta after the University of New Mexico freshman failed to receive clearance from his university to participate in the biennial games from November 15-18.
The absence of Gavin, who alongside Arie Fauzi and Kelly Tan were the three overseas players shortlisted for the final seven-strong team to Jagorawi Golf & Country Club, is expected to be a blow for the national squad, which is targeting to end its decade-long gold medal drought at the 26th edition of the Games.
Malaysia last struck gold in the 2001 edition in Kuala Lumpur when the men’s quartet of Airil Rizman Zahari, S. Sivachandhran, Mohd Shaaban Hussin and Sahal Saedin won the team competition at the Sungai Long Golf and Country Club.
The men’s team for the SEA Games will comprise of Arie, Kenneth De Silva, Low Khai Jei and another player to be named while the ladies team will be captained by Kelly, who was a double bronze medallist at the Laos Sea Games two years ago, as well as Malaysian Amateur Open winner Aretha Pan and seasoned junior Nur Durriyah Damian.
In a sign of times, the national squad for the SEA Games was finalised after joint consultation between the MGA and the Malaysian Ladies Golf Association (MALGA), with MGA exco member Captain (R) Sharuddin Sharif and MALGA executive director Dato’ Rabeahtul Aloya Abbas appointed as joint captains for the team.
MGA vice president and deputy chairman of the national team committee Low Teck San was however confident that the national squad had enough depth to overcome the absence of the seasoned campaigner. “I believe that we have a good pool of players to choose from, lads such as Jeremiah Kim, Mohd Hisyam Abdul Majid and Abel Tam have the experience and tournament temperament to bolster our challenge in Jakarta. These boys have represented the country on many occasiosn and have all performed well, so it’s quite a tricky situation for us to pick one of them for the squad,” said Low.
He added that the two gold medals target set was realistic taking into account the impressive performance by the Malaysians during the recent 100Plus Malaysian Junior Open, the 51st South East Asia Amateur Team Championship and the just concluded Asian Amateur Championship.
“In Kelly, we definitely have a potential gold medal while the men’s team has a good mix of experience and exuberance to deliver the goods. We have left no stones unturned his preparing the players for the SEA Games, including two training stints at Jagorawi and the special appointment of former Singapore national team coach Kim Baldwin to oversee the squad’s final preparations ahead of the tournament.”
Coach Baldwin is optimistic that he can whip the team into a winning force shape, despite having little less than a month to “Having had the privilege to witness Malaysia’s performances from the other side of the halfway line for a couple of years now, I feel that the team has just not got over the line at the crucial moments during a tournament. There is no want for talent here but I feel Malaysia has underperformed and hopefully, I can take these players out of their comfort zones and into the next level ahead of the tournament,” said Baldwin.