The golfers who won a ticket to play at the Maybank Malaysian Open: (from left) Wilson Choo, Kemarol Baharin, Ben Leong and Kenneth De Silva.
KUALA LUMPUR: Golfer Kemarol Baharin led the way to clinch his entry into the Maybank Malaysian Open by winning the national qualifiers at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club (KLGCC).
Kemarol shot a two-day score of one-under 143 to finish first. Ben Leong, Wilson Choo and Kenneth De Silva finished joint second four strokes back.
Only the top four golfers from the 44-player field for the two-day event earned tickets to the prestigious Malaysian Open.
“This is the second consecutive year I have qualified for the Malaysian Open and I have set my sights on making the halfway cut this year.
“Last year, I didn’t play as well as I would have liked and missed the cut, but the experience was simply amazing. I believe it has made me a better player.
“If possible, I want to finish among the top 10 this year. It is a tall order, but not an impossible dream,” he said.
Kemarol, Ben, Wilson and Kenneth join fellow Malaysians – Nicholas Fung, R. Nachimuthu, Arie Fauzi, Rizal Amin, Airil Rizman, Sukree Othman, Iylia Jamil, Khor Kheng Hwai, Shaifubari Muda, Danny Chia, Shaaban Hussin, Iain Steel, S. Murthy, S. Siva Chandhran, Gavin Kyle Green, Ervin Chang and Solomon Emilio Rosidin, who have already confirmed their places.
The Malaysian Golf Association (MGA) will announce another name from the national amateur team at a later date to complete the list of 22 Malaysians who get the opportunity to make the country proud next month.
Waiting for the Malaysians in the US$2.75mil (RM9.07mil) tournament is former world number one Lee Westwood, who is the first confirmed star player.
Westwood is also a former winner of the Malaysian Open, having won the title in 1997.
Ben, who just returned from a long lay-off due to serious back injury, is relieved to be back in the Malaysian Open.
He had a bulging disc problem but decided to put off surgery and spent more than a year on the sidelines getting treatment.
“It has been a long time and I’m delighted to have sealed my place in the Malaysian Open,” said the Sabahan, who is still working to get back to top form.
“I don’t hit the ball often at the range these days but I am still playing a decent game of golf.
“My back will never be 100% of what it was before but I feel good to get my career back on track without having to go under the knife,” said Ben, who defeated Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand to claim his lone Asian Tour win in the 2008 Selangor Masters.