The 19-year-old national number one secured her second championship in three years with a battling even-par 71 at the East Course of Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club for a three-day aggregate of five-under 208.
Trailing by one overnight, challenger Princess Mary Superal (71) of the Philippines took over the lead midway through the final round but a double bogey on the 13th spelt an end to her title charge as she settled for a share of second alongside compatriot Cyna Rodriquez, who recorded a three-under 68.
Thailand’s Suthavee Chanachai (68) and Indonesian Gavrilla Arya (70) were tied for fourth on 215, one stroke ahead of another Thai lass Sherman Santiwiwatthanaphong (71) and India’s Gurbani Singh (73).
The strong Pinoy contingent however went home with their heads held high after winning the overall team championship as well as the Division 2 title courtesy of nine-handicapper Sophia Chabon, who carded a 15-under 198 total.
Malaysia’s Fatin Aiman Afiqah Mohamad (14) topped the Division 3 contest with an even-par 213 scoreline.
Kelly cut a relieved figure as she received the challenge trophy from the Malaysian Ladies Golf Association’s (MALGA) royal patron Tunku Ampuan Negeri Sembilan Tuanku Najihah Tunku Besar Burhanuddin and newly minted Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar.
“I am honoured to win the national amateur title for the second time. I had to be patient out there today and despite falling behind Princess at the turn, I did not give up. I proceeded to give myself a lot of chances on the back nine and despite dropping a shot on the last, I am pleased with my five-under overall,” said Kelly.
She started positively with a birdie on third but was caught by the strong-charging Princess after her ball took a drink on the ninth. The turning point however came when Kelly birdied the 14th, taking advantage of the Filipina’s slip on the previous hole for a three-shot swing in her favour.
“The 14th was pivotal as I drained a 14-foot birdie to gain a two-shot cushion. Once I re-took the lead, I told myself to hang on to the lead till the end and I managed my game well through the tricky closing holes. I misjudged the wind a little on the 18th and pulled my approach a little long but by then, I knew a bogey would be enough to claim the win,” added Kelly, who will be heading to the US in August to try out for the LPGA Qualifying School First Stage.
Princess admitted that her blunder on the 13th took the winds off her sails as she charged for another win on Malaysian soil.
“It is disappointing because I tried hard but it was a case of being so close yet so far. I started strongly to put the pressure on Kelly but left myself with too much to do after the double bogey,” shared the 16-year-old reigning Malaysian and Philippines junior champion.
In another development, Khairy expressed his ministry’s support for MALGA’s successful bid to host the Queen Sirikit’s Cup in April 2014.
“I am delighted that MALGA have won the hosting rights for the 2014 Queen Sirikit Cup, which is the most prestigious ladies amateur team championship in the Asia-Pacific region. I have just been briefed by MALGA officials on the championship and we will look into doing all we can to not only support the event, but also assist MALGA in their continued efforts to nurture junior girls and produce future champions in the footsteps of today’s winner Kelly Tan,” he added.
Leading final round scores (Division 1)
208 – Kelly Tan (MAS) 67-70-71
209 – Cyna Rodriquez (PHI) 69-72-68, Princess Superal (PHI) 70-68-71
215 – Suthavee Chanachai (THA) 73-74-68, Gavrilla Arya (INA) 74-71-70
216 – Sherman Santiwiwatthanaphong (THA) 75-70-71, Gurbani Singh (IND) 74-69-73
217 – Ashley Ona (AUS) 73-71-73
218 – Loy Hee Ying (MAS) 77-71-70
219 – Parinda Phokan (THA) 72-73-74
221 – Aditi Ashok (IND) 74-72-75, Michelle Koh (MAS) 71-74-76, Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras (THA) 72-72-77, Pauline Del Rosario (PHI) 70-73-78