SUBANG: Hosts Malaysia are hoping for a top-five finish in the Queen Sirikit Cup which starts on Wednesday.
With Kelly Tan and Michelle Koh opting to turn professional at the start of the year, Malaysia’s hopes in the 36th Asia-Pacific Ladies Team Golf Invitational tournament lie with Nur Durriyah Damian and debutants Dianne Luke Jia Zhen and Kelie Kan Kah Yan.
The 19-year-old Durriyah, who is the most senior national amateur, will be banking on her extensive international exposure as she looks to steer the rookie team to a top-five finish among the 13 teams.
The trio have enjoyed the benefit of training at the Bunga Raya course of the Saujana Golf & Country Club since early last month under the watchful eye of coach and Queen Sirikit Cup veteran Lim Siew Ai, whose sister Ai Lian, a 1992 individual champion, has provided much backroom support as the alternate captain.
“We have had a good build-up to the tournament and our support team have really helped us hone our game for this championship. This will be my second Queen Sirikit Cup but I have an important role this time as I am leading, so I’m excited. However, I won’t let myself get carried away with expectations,” said Durriyah.
“The Queen Sirikit Cup is a prestigious tournament, attracting the cream of players from Asia Pacific, so the level of competition is definitely high and the onus is on our team to rise to the occasion and perform. The goal is to finish inside the top five but we know that we have to battle hard for that.”
California University of Pennsylvania athletics graduate Dianne is making her first appearance in the championship and hopes to make the most of it.
“I’ve always been fourth or fifth in the rankings, so I’m really excited to make the team. Hopefully, I can make a difference for the team,” said the 23-year-old Miri native.
Malaysia’s best Queen Sirikit Cup performance to date was at the 14th edition at the Chung Shan Hot Spring Golf Club, China, in 1992 when individual champion Ai Lian together with Siew Ai and Irene Yeoh claimed third placing.
This year, defending champions Australia will be the team to beat.
Despite missing the services of world number one amateur Minjee Lee and Oh Su-hyun, the squad from Down Under, represented by debutants Hannah Green, Shelly Shin and Cathleen Santoso, are quietly confident of a successful title defence.
The East Asian powerhouses, namely South Korea, Japan and Taiwan have dominated the storied championship, while emerging nations such as China, Thailand, the Philippines and New Zealand have narrowed the gap in recent years.
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