Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Kelly Tan, Michelle Koh and Ainil Bakar have been awarded qualifying exemptions for the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club [KLGCC], a Golf Facility Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation [AGIF].
The places have been awarded to the players in recognition of their continued progress as professional golfers and will see them lead the Malaysian challenge against an all-star LPGA field, set to feature household names such as Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson and Minjee Lee.
Johor native Tan, Malaysia’s top ranked player and LPGA Tour regular, is currently 193rd in the world rankings and 93rd on the LPGA Money List.
A return to the familiar hunting grounds of KLGCC, combined with the support she can expect on the East Course from October 8-11, will be a major boost.
Tan, aged 21, said: “I’m delighted to be coming back home in October for the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia. A big thank you to the tournament sponsor Sime Darby for the chance, once again, to compete in front of a home crowd. It’s always a wonderful tournament, one that is a big hit amongst my friends on Tour who just love everything about the tournament including the local food, culture, and people. I am really excited to return as a Malaysian Angel!”
Koh is currently ranked fourth on the China LPGA Tour Order of Merit, picking up her season’s first win at CTBC Shanghai Ladies Classic in June. Always a popular figure around KLGCC, she fired a closing five-under-par 67 last year tie with Tan for top honours among the six Malaysians competing. The pair finished at two-over and tied in 49th place.
Speaking about her return to KLGCC, 25-year-old Koh said:, “Thank you very much to Sime Darby for the invitation to play. The tournament is always the focus of my year and I’ll be looking to build on last year’s performance. The course is very challenging but it’s a great feeling playing in front of the home fans.”
Meanwhile, 26-year-old Ainil continues to make her way up the world rankings since turning professional in 2012 and plays on the Ladies European Tour [LET] and Ladies Asian Golf Tour [LAGT].
Looking ahead to her return to the East Course, she said: “Thank you to Sime Darby. It’s a real privilege to come and play this tournament and I hope that I can put in a good performance. My game’s been showing some good progress this year so I’m really looking forward to competing back home.”
Both Tan and Ainil were beneficiaries of the Sime Darby Foundation’s (YSD) funding programme earlier in their careers, with Tan being awarded YSD’s STAR scholarship in 2011 to pursue a six-month accredited college preparatory course and full-time golf programme at Pendleton School at IMG Academies in Florida.
Ainil, meanwhile, received funding support for two years to compete on the LAGT and the LET.
All three players are graduates of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Development Programme.
Continuing under the ‘Malaysian Angels’ banner, the three players are the first to receive exemptions for the tournament, which marks the start of the LPGA Tour’s late season Asian swing.
A minimum of two additional places will be made available for Malaysian players at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Local Qualifying Tournament slated for late September.
Steven Thielke, General Manager of KLGCC and Chairman of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Organising Committee, said: “The Tournament Organising Committee has revised the criteria for awarding exemption places for the 2015 tournament. All exemptions will be awarded on merit, starting with the top three ranked Malaysians on the Women’s World Golf Rankings on August 12.
“We extend our congratulations to Kelly, Michelle and Ainil on their achievement and look forward to seeing them play in October. I am sure they will seize the opportunity to do their best in the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia. They will greatly benefit from the experience.”
Open to the public from 7.30 am to 6 pm, the sixth edition of the US$2 million tournament will feature a field 75 players. There will be no half-way cut.
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