Kelly rues costly hiccup, but outing still special – thanks to Alyaa

Glad for the company: Kelly Tan gets the chance to play alongside a fellow Malaysian Alyaa Abdulghany (left) at the Portland Classic. — Photo courtesy of Kelly Tan.

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s top women golfer Kelly Tan was left rueing a poor second-round effort as she had to settle for tied-49th spot at the weather-shortened Cambria Portland Classic in Oregon, the United States.

The 27-year-old finished the week with a creditable one-under 71 at the Oregon Golf Club on Sunday, but it hardly made up for the damage done in Friday’s second round where she posted a 78.

Kelly, playing in her first LPGA Tour event since the Tokyo Olympics, shot a 72 in the opening round.

The US$1.4mil (RM5.87mil) tournament was reduced to 54 holes after torrential rain had washed out Saturday’s play.

Kelly’s five-over 221 total saw her finish in a five-way tie for 49th, 16 shots behind winner Ko Jin-young of South Korea.

Kelly is desperate for big results in the remainder of the season but the outcome in Portland, which earned her US$4,793 (RM20,087), did little to improve her position in the LPGA Tour money list.

She’s ranked a lowly No. 134 after amassing US$43,995 (RM184,383) from 13 events.

Kelly must finish in the top 80 to keep her Tour card for next season. There are just six tournaments left to be played in the regular season.

Although it wasn’t the result she would have wanted, Kelly said the week felt special as she had compatriot – Alyaa Abdulghany – to fly the Malaysian flag with on American soil for the first time ever.

Newly-turned professional Alyaa didn’t make the cut after struggling to a pair of 78 and 80 in the first two rounds.

It was Alyaa’s maiden LPGA Tour start after earning a one-off ticket to play in the tournament through its “Monday Qualifier”.

“This week was very special not only for me competing on the LPGA but to have a fellow Malaysian in the field, Alyaa Abdulghany,” wrote Kelly on her Instagram account.

“It’s been a dream of mine to see others like you flying our flag in the USA on the LPGA since I started competing in 2014. You have a bright future and I wish you the most success.

“I am determined to help you and others find your way and (together) we can make Malaysia proud!”

Alyaa, 22, said the eye-opening experience has intensified her desire even more to join the big league soon.

She’s bidding to secure a Tour card through the Qualifying School, which she has two more stages to negotiate after clearing Stage 1 last month.

“I’m super humbled about the experience I had this week. Even though I didn’t play as well as I hoped, I found more focus and desire to play better in my next tournaments,” said Alyaa.

“Thanks to my mom (Rohaya Esa) for being on my bag this week. Seeing my name in the LPGA field has given me so much drive and I can’t wait to get back out there with the best.”

While Rohaya was caddying for Alyaa for the sake of keeping the cost in check, it was nevertheless a proud moment for her.

“To compensate with our budget as you know Alyaa is a newbie in the LPGA... I’m always here for her,” said Rohaya.

“Moving forward, we will hire local caddies to help her in future LPGA events, hoping to give her more advantage.”

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