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National players face strong foreign challenge at Palm Garden

Malaysian No 1 Loy Hee Ying

Malaysia’s leading amateurs will face a strong overseas challenge in the 35th Malaysian Ladies Amateur Open, which starts this Wednesday at Palm Garden Golf Club.

Organised by the Malaysian Ladies Golf Association (MALGA), the 54-hole World Amateur Golf Ranking event will feature 104 amateur golfers from 11 countries. The players will compete in three categories – Open (elite golfers with handicaps nine and below), Mid-Amateur (handicaps 10 to 24), and Senior (age 50 and above with handicaps 24 and below).

“We have done away with the handicap divisions from previous years and now have three main categories – Open, Mid-Amateur and Senior. We introduced the Mid-Amateur category to encourage more juniors to compete and experience a championship event,” said MALGA executive director Dato’ Rabeahtul Aloya Abbas.

“It will be exciting and highly competitive as we have 39 players in the Open championship, with eight players with handicaps of +4 to +1 … so we can expect some below par scores. We selected Palm Garden as this year’s venue as it is a good and challenging course, while the location is convenient for the foreign players with hotels and a shopping mall nearby,” she added.

Palm Garden Golf Club

Leading the Malaysian charge will be the country’s top female amateur, US-based Loy Hee Ying who plays collegiate golf for East Tennessee State. Ashley Lau and Winnie Ng, who will represent the country in the 18th Asian Games in Indonesia in late August, will also be in the field. The third member of the Asian Games squad, Natasha Andrea Oon, is unable to take part as she is currently in the US for her college orientation.

Other leading Malaysian players in the mix this week include Geraldine Wong, Siti Zulaikhaa Shaari and Vinisha Gunaseelan, along with a host of talented juniors such as sisters Norezrina and NorAishah Che Omar and Mirabel Ting. Geraldine and Siti Zulaikhaa will be representing Malaysia in the World Amateur Golf Team Championship (Espirito Santo Trophy) in Dublin, Ireland, also in late August. The third member of the team, Liyana Durisic, is not playing this week.

India’s challenge will be led by the nation’s second-ranked amateur, 17-year-old Diksha Dagar. The left-handed golfer has a hearing impairment but has not let that impede her performances, as she showed earlier this year when she won the Singapore Ladies Open Amateur by three shots. The other members of the Indian contingent are Sifat Sagoo, Ridhima Dilawari and Anika Varma.

Indonesia meanwhile are represented by their current No 2, Ida Ayu Melati Putri, Rivani Adelia Sihotang, Ribka Vania and Marcella Pranovia.

Defending champion Kan Bunnabodee of Thailand is not in the field this year. While the Thais have chosen to send three relatively unknown youngsters – Napat Lertsadwattana, Yosita Khawnuna and Ruksiri Sitradatanisorn – they can never be discounted given the amazing in-depth strength of golf in the Kingdom.

Singapore has also sent a young team in Sarah Tan, Jillian Kuk and Shayne Lim.

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