PETALING JAYA: The presence of United States-based golf star Alyaa Abdulghany has boosted Malaysia’s hopes of ending an 18-year gold medal wait at the Philippines SEA Games.
Alyaa is one of the golfers shortlisted for the Games from Nov 30-Dec 11.
The other vying for the four spots in the women’s team are Natasha Andrea Oon, Loy Hee Ying, Ashley Lau, Winnie Ng, Ashley Goh, Warda Amira Abdul Rawof and Mirabel Ting.
Malaysian Golf Association (MGA) vice-president Boo Chi Chai confirmed that Alyaa’s name has been submitted to the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM).
“Alyaa is in our shortlist to make the final squad, which will be finalised on Sept 22, ” said Chi Chai.
“If all goes well, she’s set for her SEA Games debut and definitely will be a fantastic addition to the team.”
The 20-year-old Alyaa was born in Johor and spent her early childhood until she was six before moving to Newport Beach, California with her family.
She has a permanent resident status in the US but still holds the Malaysian passport.
Alyaa was roped into the national team in June and went on to finish as the runner-up to Natasha in her first assignment at the Malaysian Amateur Open in Sarawak during her summer break.
In the US golfing scene, Alyaa, the 2016 USA Today High School Player of the Year, was part of the US winning sides at the 2017 Junior Solheim Cup and 2016 Junior Ryder Cup.
Alyaa is pursuing a business administrator degree at the University of Southern California (USC), where she also represents her school in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) women’s golf top division.
Ranked No. 70 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR), Alyaa has been in superb form in her last two tournaments in July, finishing fourth at the Canadian Women’s Amateur Championship and winning the South California Golf Association (SCGA) Women’s Amateur Championship.
Meanwhile, World No. 97 Ervin Chang is expected to be a shoo-in in the men’s team, leaving K. Rhaasrikanesh, Adam Arif Madzri, Zubair Firdaus, Muhd Afif Fathi and Marcus Lim to battle for another three berths.
Malaysia last struck gold through Airil Rizman Zahari, S. Sivachandhran, Shaaban Hussin and Sahal Saedin in the team event at the 2001 Kuala Lumpur Games. The last Malaysian women winners were Lim Ai Lian, Lim Siew Ai and Dorothy Ng, who claimed the team title at the 1993 Singapore Games.
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