PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s golf prodigy Ben Leong (pic) has made the country proud with his latest exploit in the United States college golfing scene.
The 19-year-old has become the first Malaysian golfer to qualify for the US Amateur Open Championship after winning the state qualifying tournament in Florida two days ago.
The Sabah-born teenager secured his place in history when he came out tops in the two-day competition with a nine-under 135.
Ben, who is a second-year student at the University of Central Florida, shot a sizzling six-under 66 on the first day.
Ben confirmed his spot in the prestigious US Amateur Open Championship with a three-under 69 the following day.
The US Amateur Open Championship will be played in Ardmore, Oklahoma from Aug 22-28.
The qualifiers take part in the 36-hole strokeplay tournament and the top 64 will then advance to the single elimination format.
Ben is regarded as the best young talent in Malaysian golf in recent years.
On the international junior scene, he set a remarkable record of winning titles in Thailand, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Singapore.
In 2002, he was ranked fifth in the World Junior Championship in San Diego. In 2003, he was Malaysia’s first golfer in 20 years to win the individual title in the Putra Cup tournament in Brunei.
Ben made a splendid debut when he anchored Malaysia to an eighth-place finish in the Eisenhower Trophy (world amateur men’s team championship) in Puerto Rico last November.
The others in the team were S. Sivachandran and Mohd Shukree Othman and they produced the best result for Malaysia in the championship thus far. Ben finished with a three-day total of six-under 210 to clinch 10th position in the individual standings.
SportExcel executive director Teng Mui Ngee said: “We are proud of what Ben has achieved in the US.
“Ben has been trying to qualify for the US Amateur Open Championship since going there three years ago. He is producing some good results in the local meets there and is now consistently turning up under-par efforts.
“He was a member of the Asia Pacific team who beat the European side to win the Michael Bonnalack Trophy in Rome in April.
“But this is something big for him this time. We have been supporting him since 1999 and, naturally, we are proud of his achievement.”