Four-day tournament on the cards, increased prize purse for Sime Darby LPGA

Jean Chua will aim to make amends for her disappointing finish at the 2010 edition  © The ClubHouse

Kuala Lumpur, July 13: The Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia 2011 will up the ante with an increase in its prize purse as well as the number of playing days come October.

The tournament which will be played over 72 holes (an increase from last year’s 54 holes) will see the prize money increased by US$100,000 to a new high of US$1.9 million, making it one of the most lucrative events on the LPGA Schedule.

The field size will also be expanded to 72 players from 60 last year and will comprise the leading 62 players from the LPGA money list and 10 sponsor invites. The event will return to the Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club’s East Course from Oct 13-16.

Jean Chua and Kelly Tan, Malaysia’s top female professional and amateur respectively, will headline the local challenge after receiving two of the sponsors’ invites earlier last month.

Rising star Tan ended in a commendable 32nd to finish as the leading local player in last year’s Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia while Jean Chua became only the second Malaysian golfer to make the halfway cut at a ladies’ Major during her maiden appearance at the US Women’s Open in The Broadmoor, Colorado over the weekend.

Jimin Kang of South Korea produced a spectacular finish to lift the inaugural title last year, draining three birdies on the final four holes to edge out the legendary Juli Inkster for the title. The 2010 field also included an unprecedented nine of the top 10 players on the Rolex Rankings and five Malaysians.

Sime Darby Berhad’s group chief operating officer and managing director of Sime Darby Property Dato’ Abd Wahab Maskan said the improvements made in the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia 2011 reinforced the Group’s commitment to making the event one of the flagship dates on the Malaysian and Asian sports calendar.

“This is also in line with our Company’s philosophy of promoting sports development in the local and regional arena especially in advancing local sports talents through international sports collaboration such as the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia 2011.

“The increase in the number of the world’s best players playing for more days for a greater prize purse is indeed good news for sports fans for this year’s championship. I am delighted to also state that there will be many more exciting announcements about the 2011 Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia in the coming months and we look forward to putting on another great show for all of Malaysia in October this year,” he added.

“We are grateful to Sime Darby for their continued commitment to the growth of women’s golf in Malaysia with the LPGA Tour,” said LPGA commissioner Mike Whan.

“Increasing the purse and field size of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia and extending the tournament to four days will go toward improving on an already successful inaugural event in 2010.”

Kang, who pocketed US$270,000 for her victory, is excited at the prospect of defending her crown.

“Last year’s Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia was an incredible experience for all of us on the LPGA Tour, visiting such a dynamic new city. To win at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club was a special privilege for me personally, so I am very excited here that this event is going to continue to grow as one of the Tour’s best and become something even more special with its expansion in 2011,” she said.

IMG Golf’s senior vice president and global co-managing director Robbie Henchman was enthusiastic about the the growth of the event: “The extension of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia into a 72-hole event along with the growth in the prize fund and field are commensurate with our vision to building this tournament into Malaysia’s flagship international event – not just in golf, but in sports.

“With our partners at Sime Darby, we are proud to showcase Malaysia as a destination for major events and to build opportunities through golf for all walks of life in Malaysia.”

Sime Darby has used the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia 2010 as a platform for a variety of grassroots campaigns in the golf game, including the Sime Darby Development Programme, as well as a range of charitable initiatives.