Local lasses ready for title defence

2011 Malaysian Amateur Open winner Aretha Pan starts as one of the early favourites

Kuala Lumpur: The nation’s top lady amateurs are brimming with confidence ahead of their title defence at the 29th edition of the Malaysian Ladies Amateur Open (MLAO), which tees-off on Tuesday.

A strong finish at the recently concluded 34th Queen Sirikit Cup (Asia Pacific Ladies Team Golf Championship) in Singapore has brighten Malaysia’s hopes of repeating a clean sweep of both the individual and team titles at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club from May 29-31.

The trio of Aretha Pan Herng, Kelly Tan and Vivienne Chin finished fifth among the 13 nations that competed at Tanah Merah Country Club from April 25-27, rounding off with a best-two total of 445 – marking Malaysia’s best ever haul in the history of the competition. In the individual category, 2011 Malaysian Amateur Open (MAO) champion Aretha was placed eighth on 223 on the back of rounds of 76, 76 and 71.

“Besides Kelly who is now based in Brisbane, US-based Iman Ahmad Nordin is also back and will be gunning for the crown,” said Malaysian Ladies Golf Association’s executive director Datuk Rabe’ahtul Aloya Abbas.

“Aretha Pan, Vivienne Chin and Nur Durriyah Damian are also in top form to add to Malaysia’s challenge in the championship. MALGA and Malaysian Golf Association have also organised a centralised training camp for the national players as well as the back-up squad under coach Koe Lai Yin to acclimatise to the conditions at KLGCC,” added Rabe’ahtul, who believes that the tournament will be a good exposure for the junior girls to compete alongside some the top national players from the region such as team from Philippines, Australia, Thailand and Singapore.

The MLAO received a tremendous boost earlier in the year when it was announced that the ladies division of the MAO, which was previously contested separately, will be absorbed into the championship – reaffirming the MLAO’s status as Malaysia’s most prestigious ladies amateur golf tournament.

The selection of the prestigious East Course at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club – the host venue of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia – as the battleground for the championship has been seen a surge in the of number of players and countries participating.

A total 107 competitors from across the Asia-Pacific region as well as contestants from South Africa have confirmed their participation, with regional powerhouses Thailand and the Philippines, who are returning after a two-year absence, expected to provide a stern challenge to the domestic line-up.

Last year, top-ranked amateur Kelly claimed the individual title after a solid six-stroke victory over fellow national Nur Durriyah Damian. The 19-year-old Kelly had earlier captained the Malaysia A team comprising of past winners Michelle Koh, Diana Tham and herself to the team championship.

Bermaz Motors Sdn Bhd, the franchise holder for the Mazda brand in Malaysia, will return as the main sponsor of the event alongside Apple Vacations, Shiseido, Gatorade, Mal Tel Communications Sdn Bhd, Fuji Xerox Asia Pacific Pt. Ltd, Momentum Chocolate Sdn Bhd, Samsung Malaysia Electronics, Berjaya vacation Club, Syarikat Hang Tuah Sdn Bhd, Crescent Links (M) Sdn Bhd), the Ministry of Youth & Sports as well as the Ministry of Tourism.