Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Lexi Thompson has confirmed her return to the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club (KLGCC) for October’s US$2 million Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia.
The 19-year-old American will be seeking to defend the crown she won in fine style last year, providing the catalyst for her to claim her maiden Major at this year’s Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Thompson said: “I’m really looking forward to getting back to Malaysia and defending my title at the Sime Darby LPGA. Last year was such a fantastic tournament for me – I managed to keep in touch with the lead for the first two days and then everything just came good on the last two rounds.
“I’ve got great memories of KLGCC and will be doing my best to go there and enjoy it and hopefully pick up where I left off last year.”
The world number five won’t be the only attraction at the October showdown with organisers announcing a series of developments to coincide with the tournament’s fifth-year celebrations which, together with a new tournament slogan, are designed to broaden the appeal of one of Asia’s flagship golf tournaments and lifestyle destinations.
The changes include six Malaysian-born professionals – dubbed the ‘Malaysian Angels’ – who are graduates of the tournament’s elite junior development programme, featuring in the 2014 tournament, subject to their meeting R&A approved qualification criteria. In addition to a new field make-up of 75 players, the tournament will also have a new-look Qualifying Tournament.
Following the unveiling of the new tournament slogan – Women with Drive –organisers hinted at further announcements to come.
Dato’ Seri Abd Wahab Maskan, Group Chief Operating Officer of Sime Darby Berhad, said: “2014 marks an important milestone for the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia as we celebrate five years of bringing the world’s best golfers to Malaysia, an on-going investment in the development of the women’s game in Malaysia and creating a truly world class sporting occasion and destination for everybody to enjoy.
“We wanted to mark this special occasion by making the 2014 edition of the tournament a celebration in every way, ensuring that it really is a spectacle for everyone, irrespective of people’s knowledge or understanding of the game of golf. We have a number of exciting plans in the pipeline which will make it an occasion not to be missed, an event in Visit Malaysia Year 2014.
“We are also proud to have the continued involvement of YABhg Tun Musa Hitam, Chairman of YSD and former Chairman of SD Group in this tournament, whose dedication, commitment and leadership continues to add creativity and elegance to the tournament, ensuring that it continues to be a special occasion in the Malaysian sporting calendar.”
Michelle Koh paid tribute to the role the tournament has had in developing the women’s game in Malaysia.
“I’m glad that Sime Darby started a development programme in conjunction with the Sime Darby LPGA tournament at KLGCC because this programme gives us an opportunity to train with the world’s most respected coaches for three months every year, covering all facets of the game necessary to compete at the highest level.
“The Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Development Programme was instrumental in my decision to turn professional,” said the 24-year-old China LPGA Tour player who has been a regular on the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Development Programme since 2011.
Now in its fifth year, the programme, which is run in partnership between the Sime Darby Foundation, KLGCC and the MST Golf Academy, has seen 56 junior players – including the likes of current LPGA player Kelly Tan – pass through its ranks and receive one-to-one tuition from Ian Triggs, Koe Lai Yin and Travis van Dijk, on the 12-week course.
Once again, the tournament will raise funds and awareness for Official Charitable Partner CARIF, with all proceeds from the four-day spectacular going towards the fight against breast cancer in Malaysia. On Pink Saturday, fans and players are encouraged to sport a touch of pink in what has become an annual highlight. Since its inaugural year in 2010, the tournament has raised in excess of RM2 million for CARIF.
Mike Whan, LPGA Commissioner, said: “The Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia continues to produce a showpiece tournament for golf fans in Malaysia and around the world. The staging of the event is truly first class. We look forward to returning to Malaysia in October.”