Kuala Lumpur: There is increased optimism that Malaysia will end its gold medal drought at the South East Asia (SEA) Games after an inspired display by the national amateurs during the 53rd South East Asian Amateur Golf Team Championship, which concluded Sunday in the Philippines.
The trio of Kelly Tan, Michelle Koh and Vivienne Chin steered the nation to a historic maiden victory in the Santi Cup, ending Thailand’s four-year stranglehold in the ladies’ division on a rain-drenched Sherwood Hills Golf Club.
Despite trailing by four shots coming into the final round, a closing three-under 69 from individual bronze medallist Tan and Chin’s 70 saw the Malaysian lasses pipping the Thais led by individual champion Benyapa Niphatsophon to title by a single stroke with a 576 overall.
In the main Putra Cup, Gavin Kyle Green once again underlined his status as one of the region’s brightest talents by clinching a three-stroke victory in the individual contest.
The 19-year-old was neck-to-neck with Filipino stalwart Jonathan delos Reyes (71) for much of the round but took advantage of his rival’s double bogey on the 17th to coast home a with three-under 69 for a 14-under 274 aggregate.
With Rico Hoey (68) and Jobim Carlos (70) finishing third and fourth respectively, the hosts nonetheless romped to a convincing 22-stroke victory over Singapore, totalling 840 over four days to claim their 18th victory in the annual regional meet and their first since 1996. Meanwhile, Thailand coasted to comfortable wins in Lion City Cup (junior boys) and Kartini Cup (junior girls) divisions.
Malaysian Golf Association vice-president Low Teck San, who was also the team captain for the event, expressed his delight with the result.
“We expected Gavin to deliver in the men’s individual category and he did not disappoint with some good golf. But the real surprise was the ladies’ team, which displayed real character in difficult conditions with the final round played under intermittent rain.
“Kelly [Tan] bounced back superbly after a poor opening round to take the individual bronze while Michelle [Koh] kept the team in contention on all three days with a solid performance and Vivienne [Chin] came in strongly on the final day. Their chemistry was top-notch and the girls definitely showed that they can step up a gear when needed,” said Low.
He added that the championship proved to be an important testing ground ahead of the 27th SEA Games in Myanmar and that Malaysia were confident of contributing at least one gold medal to the nation’s cause.
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.
“Based on these results, we can surely eye for two SEA Games gold medals but I think we should not get carried away just yet. We hope to have Gavin in our team for Myanmar and he will definitely start as an early favourite. Abel [Tam] is another of our consistent performers and we hope to have two more players that we can bank on.
“The ladies’ team will definitely be motivated after their Santi Cup victory and we can also rely on Kelly, who is a gold-medal contender herself but we must double our efforts in the run-up to Games as I believe our rivals would have taken notice of this excellent display,” added Low.
Brunei Darussalam will host the 54th edition of the South East Asian Amateur Golf Team Championship next year.