A bit of good cheer in the air

PUTRAJAYA, 3 Ogos -- Pemain negara, Ashley Lau Jen Wen ketika beraksi pada Kejohanan Golf Terbuka Wanita Amatur Malaysia ke-35.

THERE’S reason for a bit of good cheer this week on the local golf scene.

Today marks the end of the golf competition at the Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia and later in the week the US PGA Tour’s CIMB Classic is set to be launched in Kuala Lumpur - events that come with much national pride attached to them and also help consolidate this country’s standing as a bona fide global golf and holiday destination.

Should Gavin Green win the European Tour’s D+D Real Czech Masters championship at Albatross Golf Resort in the Czech Republic, that would make it some week to remember.

It is unlikely that Malaysia will win a ladies’ Team or Individual medal. But the fact that there is a three-strong women’s side representing the country at the regional showpiece is an achievement in itself and a significant one at that.

Ashley Lau, 18, sixteen-year-old Natasha Oon and Winnie Ng, who turned 17 last month, are the players chosen by the Malaysian Golf Association to carry the flag at Jakarta’s Pondok Indah Golf Club.

Not since the Hiroshima Games in Japan in 1994 has a Malaysian women’s team been to the Asian Games. And even if they don’t win anything, that’s okay.

The greater good that comes from sending players like these three teenagers to international events like the Asian Games is the invaluable experience gained. The benefits cannot be measured in monetary terms and as they each set out to further their golf careers, be it at an American college or otherwise, playing in Jakarta will have taught them a few lessons on the course and of life.

They did not start very well, with Ashley and Natasha shooting even-par, and Winnie finishing in a tie for 30th place.

To put things in perspective, China’s Du Mohan was nine-under-par after the second round.

In the Team standings after the first day Malaysia were tied for 12th on even-par 144. The two best scores of the three count towards the points standings.

On the leaderboard, where all three scores count, Malaysia were 9th on six-over 222.

The bright spot was Ervin Chang’s continued run of sharp form. He was joint second after the first round on three-under 69.

Kanavathi Rhaasrikanesh managed a two-over 74 for T27 and Mohd Fathi Muhammad Affif was seven-over in a tie for 56th place.

Given the early running, Ervin looked Malaysia’s best bet for a medal in Jakarta.

Win or lose, good news is expected from media briefing hosted by the CIMB Group on Tuesday.

It is here that the Minister of Sport Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman is expected to launch this year’s CIMB Classic, the only US PGA Tour-sanctioned tournament in Southeast Asia and one of Malaysia’s biggest and most lucrative sporting events.

CIMB Group chief executive officer Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Aziz and PGA Tour vice-president and executive director Todd Rhinehart, who is based in Kuala Lumpur, are also expected at the launch.

Among other things, questions raised by the media will focus on the state of the West course at TPC Kuala Lumpur.

The tract closed after last year’s event after Pat Perez won it by four strokes and underwent a revamp. Thus, the state of the course will be of much interest.

The prize money of US$7mil will also generate some discussion, however minute it might be, as it was mentioned previously that there could well be an increase. Whether this will be effected this year or not is the burning question.

Green was tied for the lead after the first round of the Czech Masters and if he could somehow go all the way and land his first European Tour title, it would be some achievement as well.

The top-ranked player in Asia last year and 213th in the world standings, Green will gain automatic entry into the CIMB Classic by virtue of being the top-ranked Malaysian, just as he did last season.

Malaysia gets a second entry to the CIMB Classic, via a national playoff tournament. And with so much at stake – there is no cut for selected field – competition is more than likely to be as stiff as ever.

Either way, it’s all good for the game and this week in particular there should be reason to cheer.

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