Natasha, Ashley and Audrey finish tied fifth in first round

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian trio led by national No. 1 Natasha Andrea Oon made their presence felt when they finished tied fifth after the opening round of the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific (WAAP) Championship in the United Arab Emirates.

Natasha, Ashley Lau and Audrey Tan carded matching three-under 69s and are just three shots off the pace at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club yesterday.

Thailand’s Natthakritta Vongtaveelap set the early pace after she birdied seven of her final 12 holes to lead by two shots ahead of Taiwan’s Wu Chun-wei, Japan’s Mizuki Hashimoto and Indonesia’s Viera Permata on 68.

Ashley recovered well from an early blemish on the fourth hole with birdies at the seventh, eighth, 12th and 16th while Audrey marked her flawless card with three birdies at the second, eighth and 10th.

“I can’t complain... a three-under. I definitely hit shots that were not as great but they were good enough to make birdies out there,” said Ashley, who finished tied 12th in Japan two years ago.

“Throughout the last two days, I was hitting it great on the course but today hitting wasn’t my, I would say, A game. It was probably like a B game. But putting definitely saved me out there.”

A thrilled Audrey was pleased to have mark her debut with a bogey-free round.

“It’s my first appearance and I was pretty excited and nervous going into it. So I’m quite happy with this opening round,” said Audrey.

“The bogey-free round set a good tone for me mentally as well. So, feeling pretty confident for the rest of the week.”

Natasha could have finished at the top of the leaderboard had she not fumbled with two late bogeys.

The world No. 49 was five-under after 13 holes before dropping shots at the 15th and 17th.

But she preferred to look on the bright side.

“I think there were a lot of good takeaways but I would like to have finished better since all my birdies kind of came like in the start of the round,” she said.

“Then at the end it kind of a little bit shaky. Definitely would love a better finish but under (par) is not bad at all. Under is a good thing.”

The other three Malaysians in the fray – Winnie Tan, Liyana Durisic and Foong Zi Yu – opened with a 72, 73 and 75 to be tied for 27th, 39th and 53rd respectively.

Leading first round scores

66: Natthakritta Vongtaveelap (Tha);

68: Wu Chun-wei (Tpe), Mizuki Hashimoto (Jpn), Viera Permata (Ina);

69: Ashley Lau (Mas), Audrey Tan (Mas), Kelsey Bennett (Aus), Natasha Andrea Oon (Mas), Andrea Varma (Ind), Hwang You-min (Kor), Cassie Porter (Aus), Inez Wanamarta (Ina).

Selected Malaysians: 72: Winnie Ng; 73: Liyana Durisic; 75: Foong Zi Yu.

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