PETALING JAYA: Alyaa Abdul-ghany kept Malaysia’s flag flying high by powering into the quarter-finals of the prestigious 120th edition of the US Women’s Amateur championship.
On Friday, the 21-year-old defeated American Ellie Slama two-up to make it to the last eight of the elimination rounds at the Woodmount Country Club in Rockville, Maryland, equalling the feat last achieved by Lim Siew Ai in 1995.
Alyaa, who is playing in the tournament for the fourth time, had earlier carded 73 and 71 in the preliminary 36-hole stroke play to make the top-64 cut.
She then scored an impressive 4&2 (four up with two holes to play) win over Australian Kristy Hodgkins before going on to beat Marissa Kirkwood of the United States with an identical score in the last 32.
Buoyed after surpassing her previous best last-32 outings in 2016 and 2018, the world No. 34 Alyaa then fended off a strong challenge from Slama to set up a clash with American Riley Smyth.
A win is set to make her the most successful Malaysian in the tournament which was incepted in 1895.
Alyaa would surely shoot for the stars to bag the title as the champion will receive an invitation to the US Women’s Open in 2021.
Natasha Andrea Oon was the other Malaysian in the 132-woman contest and marked her debut with a last-64 outing.
She did well to shoot 76 and 69 for joint 14th placing in the stroke play but failed to replicate her form in the match play.
Natasha was outplayed 5&4 by American Nicole Whiston.
Siew Ai, who’s the best women’s golfer Malaysia ever produced, is rooting for Alyaa to better her achievement.
“I’d be absolutely proud if Alyaa managed that, ” said Siew Ai, 45, who lost to eventual champion Kelli Kuehne at the Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, 1995.
“Records are meant to be broken. I am glad that the next generation is on track to do it, ” said Siew Ai.
“For those in the US, it is the biggest stage for amateur golf. It’s massive.”
Siew Ai, who became the first Malaysian to ply her trade on the US LPGA Tour, added: “That (1995 edition) was my one and only time playing the US Women’s Am.
“I was the first to play and also to make it to match play. Didn’t get another try as I turned pro the following year.”
Alyaa, who is a permanent resident in the US but still holds a Malaysian passport, represented Malaysia at the SEA Games in the Philippines last year.
The Johor-born Alyaa moved to Newport Beach, California, with her family when she was six.