Region’s best set for Bunga Raya challenge

L to R: International Golf Federation women's chairman Patsy Hankins, Queen Sirikit Cup coordinator Rae-Vadee T. Suwan, Malaysian Ladies Golf Association president HH Tunku Puteri Tunku uan Sri Dato Seri Jawahir, Saujana Resorts director Dato'Abu Bakar Nor
L to R: International Golf Federation women’s chairman Patsy Hankins, Queen Sirikit Cup coordinator Rae-Vadee T. Suwan, Malaysian Ladies Golf Association president HH Tunku Puteri Tunku Puan Sri Dato Seri Jawahir and Saujana Resorts director Dato’Abu Bakar Nor

Subang: The region’s finest women amateur golfers will battle it out for their nation’s honour during the 36th edition of the Asia-Pacific Ladies Invitational Golf Team Championship for the Queen Sirikit Cup (QSC), which tees off on Wednesday.

The storied championship returns to Malaysia for the third time after a 12-year absence with the newly-revamped Bunga Raya course at Saujana Golf & Country Club being hand-picked as the host venue.

In a great development for women’s golf in the region, the championship will see the full participation of all 13 member countries, led by titleholders Australia, who triumphed in Chinese Taipei last year.

The field will also feature regional powerhouses South Korea, who have lifted the prestigious Cup on 15 occasions, Japan, Chinese Taipei and New Zealand while emerging nations such as China, Thailand, Philippines, India and host Malaysia will hope to make a breakthrough.

Speaking during a press conference on Monday, the Malaysian Ladies Golf Association (MALGA) president and organising committee chairman of the 36th Queen Sirikit Cup HH Tunku Puteri Tunku Puan Sri Dato’ Seri Jawahir Almarhum Tuanku Ja’afar was delighted with the opportunity to host the region’s leading women amateur team championship.

“I will to express my gratitude to Queen Sirikit Cup founding member and coordinator Rae-vadee T. Suwan for giving Malaysia the opportunity to host the championship for the third time.

“My sincerest appreciation also goes out to our host this week Saujana Resorts, the R&A as well as our esteemed sponsors, namely DRB-HICOM, SAPURA, UEM-Sunrise and other partners, who have assisted us in putting up this championship,” said Tunku Puteri Jawahir.

“I am proud to announce that representatives from all 13 teams have safely arrived in Kuala Lumpur and are currently practising on the championship course. As the event is being organised in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2014, MALGA has taken the initiative to introduce a little bit of our beautiful country and culture to the participants,” she explained, noting that participants were taken on a tour of Putrajaya on arrival as well a visit to the Petronas Twin Towers after the official practice round.

The “Iron Lady” behind the creation and continued success of the Queen Sirikit Cup, Rae-vadee T. Suwan expects the 36th edition to be keenly contested.

“It is our third time coming to Malaysia and based on experience, the Malaysian hospitality has always been exemplary and it will give us a good opportunity to gauge the progress made by Malaysian ladies golf. As always, this year’s championship is going to be highly competitive as all the member countries are well prepared and have selected their top available players.

“The Queen Sirikit Cup has done much for the women’s game in Asia over the last 35 years and with the support from many corners – the future remains bright,” added Rae-vadee, hinting that delegates from the member countries will meet at the sidelines of the championship to consider a proposal to set up a new regional ladies professional golf tour.

Living up to its slogan Where Legends Are Born, the Queen Sirikit Cup has been the stepping stone for some of Asia’s top golfers, counting the likes of South Korea’s Shin Jiyai and Park Yee Hong; Ai Miyazato of Japan; former world number on Yani Tseng of Chinese Taipei; New Zealand’s teen sensation Lydia Ko; Thai rising star Pornanong Phatlum as well as Malaysia’s own rookie professional Kelly Tan as its alumni.

National amateur Nur Durriyah Damian will shoulder the task of leading the Malaysian team during the championship, alongside Dianne Luke Jia Zhen and Kelie Kan Kah Yan. The trio have been training under the watchful eyes of coach Lim Siew Ai and alternate captain Lim Ai Lian at the tournament venue since early March.

“We have roped in the expertise of Siew Ai and Ai Lian to help with the preparation of the team. Both of them are Queen Sirikit Cup veterans and notably finished third overall alongside Irene Yeoh at the 14th edition in China (1992) while Ai Lian also claimed the individual honours that year,” said MALGA’s executive director Dato’ Rabeahtul Aloya Abbas.

“Our approach this time has not only been to familiarise the girls with the layout, drawing up strategies and fostering team spirit but also to address any external factors that may affect their performance,” she noted.

The Queen Sirikit Cup sees teams of three players competing over three rounds of strokeplay, with two lowest gross scores contributing to the team’s daily score. The team returning the lowest gross score for the Championship will receive the challenge trophy, named in the honour of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand.