Malaysians wary of testy Tanjong tract

Natasha Andrea Oon in action during the practice round of the inaugural Women's Amateur Asia-Pacific©Paul Lakatos|R&A

SINGAPORE: Malaysian trio Natasha Oon, Ashley Lau and Geraldine Wong have all described the “very long” New Tanjong course at Sentosa Golf Club as one of the biggest challenges in this week’s 72-hole Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship, which tees off on Wednesday.

In-form Winnie Ng, Liyana Durisic and Qistina Balqis Azhar also feature in the six-strong Malaysian contingent in a field comprising 83 players from 18 countries, which features 15 players in the top 100 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR).

The livewire Oon is one of Malaysia’s top prospects and will play college golf at San Jose State University in California from August.

The Kuala Lumpur-based teen is familiar with Sentosa Golf Club after watching good friend Jessica Korda play in last year’s HSBC Women’s World Championship – this year’s edition will be held next week – although Oon hadn’t actually played The New Tanjong before this week.

“I’ve been here but never played this course before, but it’s really good. It’s very long – everyone’s saying it’s very long – especially as you have three par-fours close to 400 metres,” said Oon, who has twice competed in the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia.

“I came here last year to watch Jessica Korda in the HSBC event because I’ve known her since I met her at the Sime Darby. I had tea with her in her rookie year, talked a lot and we developed a friendship so I came down here to support her and it was really cool.

“You watch her and the LPGA players and they play so well and make the course look easy, but then you play the course and it’s so hard!”

This week’s winner will earn invitations to play in two major championships – the ANA Inspiration (29 March-1 April) at Mission Hills Country Club in California, USA, and the Ricoh Women’s British Open (2-5 August) at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club in Lancashire, England.

The winner will also be invited by HSBC, a global supporter of women’s golf, to remain in Singapore to compete in next week’s 11th HSBC Women’s World Championship (1-4 March), which will also be held over The New Tanjong at Sentosa Golf Club.

Ashley Lau Jen Wen ©Paul Lakatos|R&A

Lau is Malaysia’s top-ranked player in this week’s field and, like Oon, will also start college golf later this year when she joins the University of Michigan.

The 17-year-old Sarawakian agreed with her compatriot that the 6,456 yards (5,904 metres) layout is a big test for the young competitors, with over half of the field aged 18 or under.

“It’s playing a bit long, but the course is in great condition,” said Lau, who graduated from high school in Brisbane, Australia.

Lau played Tuesday’s practice round with Wong, who’s in her first year at the University of Central Arkansas, and was happy to be playing in warm weather in Singapore.

“It’s long for me, but I like it because I haven’t played on green grass for a while,” Wong laughed. “It’s winter in the States.”

This week, Japan and Korea each have four players in the top 100 of the WAGR, Australia, Thailand and Chinese Taipei each have two, while China has one.