Reigning champion Lexi Thompson has confirmed her title defence when the fifth edition of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia returns to Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club (KLGCC) this October 9-12.
The 19-year-old American will be keen to emulate a performance that marked something of a turning point in her professional career in 2013, as she went on to secure victory in the final tournament of the year before claiming her first major at this year’s Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Speaking ahead of the official tournament launch, Thompson said, “I’m really looking forward to getting back to Malaysia and defending my title at this year’s Sime Darby LPGA. Last year was such a fantastic tournament for me – I managed to keep in touch with the lead for the first two days and then everything just came good on the last two rounds. I’ve got great memories of KLGCC and will be doing my best to go out there and enjoy it and hopefully pick up where I left off last year.”
The World No. 5 (Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings as at 14 July 2014) won’t be the only attraction at the October showdown, as organisers announced a series of developments to coincide with the tournament’s fifth-year celebrations which, together with a new tournament slogan, are designed to broaden the appeal of one of Asia’s flagship golf tournaments and lifestyle destinations.
The changes include six Malaysian-born professionals – dubbed the ‘Malaysian Angels’ – who are graduates of the tournament’s elite junior development programme, featuring in the 2014 tournament, subject to their meeting R&A approved qualification criteria. In addition to a new field make-up of 75 players, the tournament will also have a new-look Qualifying Tournament.
Following the unveiling of a the new tournament slogan ‘Women with Drive’, organisers also hinted at further announcements to come. Speaking on behalf of the tournament sponsor, Dato’ Seri Abd Wahab Maskan, Group Chief Operating Officer of Sime Darby Berhad, said:
“2014 marks an important milestone for the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia as we celebrate five years of bringing the world’s best golfers to Malaysia, an ongoing investment in the development of the women’s game in Malaysia and creating a truly world class sporting occasion and destination for everybody to enjoy. We wanted to mark this special occasion by making the 2014 edition of the tournament a celebration in every way, ensuring that it really is a spectacle for everyone, irrespective of people’s knowledge or understanding of the game of golf. We have a number of exciting plans in the pipeline for this year’s tournament which will make it an occasion not to be missed, an event in Visit Malaysia Year 2014.
“We are also proud to have the continued involvement of YABhg Tun Musa Hitam, the Chairman of YSD and Former Chairman of SD Group in this tournament, whose dedication, commitment and leadership continues to add creativity and elegance to the tournament, ensuring that it continues to be a very special occasion in the Malaysian sporting calendar,” continued Dato’ Seri Abd Wahab Maskan.
Speaking at the official launch of this year’s tournament, Malaysia’s Michelle Koh paid tribute to the role the tournament has had in developing the women’s game in Malaysia:
“I’m glad that Sime Darby started a development programme in conjunction with the Sime Darby LPGA tournament at KLGCC because this program gives us an opportunity to train with the world’s most respected coaches for three months every year, covering all facets of the game necessary to compete at the highest level.
“I can honestly say that the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Development Programme was instrumental in my decision to turn professional,” added the 24 year old China LPGA Tour player who has been a regular on the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Development Programme since 2011.
Now in its fifth year, the programme, which is run in partnership between the Sime Darby Foundation, KLGCC and the MST Golf Academy, has seen some 56 junior players – including the likes of current LPGA player Kelly Tan – pass through its ranks and receive one-to-one tuition from Ian Triggs, Koe Lai Yin and Travis van Dijk, on the 12 week course.
Once again, the tournament will raise funds and awareness for Official Charitable Partner CARIF, with all proceeds from the four-day spectacular going towards the fight against breast cancer in Malaysia. Pink Saturday will return on the tournament Saturday during which fans and players are encouraged to sport a touch of pink in what has become an annual highlight. Since its inaugural year in 2010, the tournament has raised in excess of RM 2 million for CARIF.
Mike Whan, LPGA Commissioner, commended the tournament on reaching its five year milestone, saying, “The Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia continues to produce a showpiece tournament, year in year out for golf fans in Malaysia and around the world. The staging of the event is truly first class and it’s now undoubtedly one of the most popular tournaments among the players on the LPGA tour. I offer my congratulations to the tournament on reaching this milestone and we look forward to returning to Malaysia in October.”
Speaking on behalf of tournament organiser, Robbie Henchman, Senior Vice President of IMG Asia Pacific said, “The Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia continues to set a benchmark for golf tournaments in Asia. This year we’ll be building on the success of the first four years of the tournament to create a true celebration of top quality golf combined with entertainment away from the golf course, ensuring that the 2014 tournament broadens its appeal well beyond its core golf community. It will certainly be a year to remember.”
The fifth edition of the US$ 2 million purse Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia will take place on the East course at KLGCC from 9-12 October 2014. 75 players, made up of 63 players from the LPGA tour, 6 Malaysian Nationals and a further 6 sponsor exemptions, including one place in the Asia Qualifying Tournament, will compete in the 72-hole stroke play, no cut tournament for one of the largest purse events in Asia.
Tickets for the Sime Darby LPGA 2014 will be available on sale beginning 1st August, 2014 at www.ticketpro.com.my, Ticketpro outlets and Ticketpro hotline on +603 7880 7999.
To see Lexi Thompson’s video message and all the latest updates, visit the tournament website at www.simedarbylpgamalaysia.com. Tournament activities can also be followed on Twitter and Instagram @SimeDarbyLPGA and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SimeDarbyLPGAMalaysia