Andrea and Co set to end 18-year-itch


  • Golf
  • Sunday, 08 Dec 2019

NATASHA Andrea Oon (pic) is just 18. And she showed nerves of steel on the 18th hole of the Luisita Golf and Country Club in Tarlac City, Clark, to roll in a 10-foot birdie putt that stunned defending champions Thailand and put Malaysia a step closer to winning their first golf gold medal in 18 years.

The teenager pulled off an unlikely win over world No. 1 Atthaya Thittikul in the sudden-death playoff after the team matchplay semi-final contest ended in a 1-1 draw yesterday. Natasha and Atthaya had earlier delivered a point each for their respective teams.

Atthaya outplayed Alyaa Abdulghany 8 and 7 (eight up with seven holes to play) while Natasha was just as impressive in her 3 and 2 win over Pimnipa Panthong.

Natasha was then given the task of taking on the more illustrious Atthaya, who at 16, is already a two-time winner on the Ladies European Tour professional circuit, in the tie-breaker on the par five 18th.

When Atthaya missed the birdie putt from 15 feet, Natasha knew she just had to take her chance.

“Going up against Atthaya is a daunting task, it’s a do-or-die match. There’s lots of pressure, and I had to try and calm myself and I needed to believe that I could win,” said Natasha.

“Both of us were about the same until the third where she hit her approach shot little bit left and long (from the pin). She then missed her putt, and I sank mine for the win.

“I was really over the moon. To help my country get into the final, it felt as good as winning a championship.”

Malaysia will take on the Philippines, who beat Indonesia 1.5-0.5 in the other last four clash, for the title today.

The hosts, led by the newly crowned individual gold medallist Bianca Pagdanganan, are set to start as overwhelming favourites again.

But national coach Lim Ai Lian believes her charges are capable of springing yet another surprise.

“In golf, anything is possible. There’s always a chance until the final putt drops,” said Ai Lian.

And Ai Lian is certainly the right person to inspire Natasha, Alyaa and Ashley Lau (reserve). She was one of the three Malaysian women to have last won gold at the SEA Games.

Ai Lian, Lim Siew Ai and Irene Yeoh won in the 1993 Games in Singapore, then contested in stroke play.

The thoughts of seeing the Malaysian trio emulating her footsteps excite her.

“I’m glad to be part of this. But the fight isn’t over yet. We still need to keep our heads level for tomorrow’s game,” she said.

The men’s team failed to get past the quarter-finals as they were beaten 1-2 by the Philipines.

Ervin Chang dispatched Carl Jano Corpus 4 and 3, but teammates K. Rhaasrikanesh lost to Aidric Chan 1-up and Adam Arif Madzri going down 2 and 1 to Sean Jean Ramos.

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Natasha Andrea Oon

   

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