PETALING JAYA: Bowler Rafiq Ismail has finally won the men’s Open title for Malaysia at the Hong Kong Open – after 18 years!
The 22-year-old defeated teammate and Malaysian Open winner Ahmad Muaz Fishol 236-244, 223-174 at the SCAA Bowling Centre yesterday, for his sensational third victory in a month.
Rafiq has been unstoppable since he claimed his maiden win of the season at the Singapore Open on June 30.
He went on to capture the European Bowling Tour Masters a week later in Madrid.
The last Malaysian to have won in Hong Kong was Ben Heng, who’s currently coaching the national team.
Rafiq was quick to dedicate the win to Ben, who did not travel with the team as his mother passed away recently.
“I was told that he was the last man to have won it here. I’m so proud that I emulated his feat,” said Rafiq, who pocketed HK$60,000 (RM31,600) for his success.
“It’s a shame he couldn’t be with us. I hope I’ve made him proud.”
Rafiq revealed that lady luck was on his side.
“I considered myself lucky. Muaz was doing great until his middle and ring fingers’ skin was peeling at the end of the first game.
“He began to struggle in the second. It could have gone down the wire had he not got injured.
“It was tough on me to beat him because we’re very close. But we’re really delighted to have made it 1-2 for Malaysia.”
Nur Amirah Auni Azman almost made it a double joy for Malaysia but she fell short in the women’s event.
Amirah went down tamely 160-215 to Iliya Syamin of Singapore, dashing her hopes of winning her first Open tournament.
Amirah, however, was not disheartened.
“This is by far my best outing since I was promoted to the senior team last year. My only other podium was finishing third at the Malaysian Open in 2015,” said Amirah, who settled for HK$16,000 (RM8,400).
Unlike in the men’s Open event, Malaysia has been constantly producing winners in the women’s division in the last 20 years.
Esther Cheah (2012, 2013 and 2016) and Shalin Zulkifli (2006, 2007 and 2010) were three-time winners while Wendy Chai (2002), Lai Kin Ngoh (2001) and Victoria Chin (2014) won once each.
? MEN’SSecond round (eight games): 1. Rafiq Ismail (Mas) 1883, 2. Ahmad Muaz Fishol (Mas) 1848, 3. Merwin Tan (Phi) 1754, 4. Lee Tak Man (Mac) 1745, 5. Annop Arromsaranon (Tha) 1735, 6. Enzo Hernandez (Phi) 1731.
Selected Malaysians: 7. Timmy Tan 1730, 9. Tun Ameerul Tun Hakim Tun Hasnul Azam 1722, 11. Azizi Naim 1670, 13. Alex Liew 1651, 15. Hafiz Zainuddin 1620.
Stepladder finalsQuarter-final: Annop 237 bt Tak Man 216 and Enzo 208.
Semi-final: Muaz 210 bt Merwin 194 and Annop 173.
Final: Rafiq bt Muaz 236-244, 244-174.
? WOMEN’SSecond round (eight games): 1. Iliya Syamin (Sin) 1794, 2. Wong Son Ian (Mac) 1751, 3. Nur Amirah Auni Azman (Mas) 1749, 4. Nora Lyana Nastasia Norkamal (Mas) 1748, 5. Mades Arles (Phi) 1704, 6. Lara Posadas (Phi) 1699.
Selected Malaysians: 16. Nur Syazwani Sahar 1566, 18. Faten Najihah Ahmad Faik 1548.
Stepladder finalsQuarter-final: Lara 199 bt Mades 178 and Nora 161.
Semi-final: Amirah 228 bt Lara 221 and Son Ian 211.
Final: Iliya bt Amirah 215-160.