Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: One of the region’s leading sports talent development programmes opened its doors to the public, providing an insight into the workings of a course that is changing the face of elite women’s golf in Malaysia.
Over six years, the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Development Programme has been one of the mainstays of the Sime Darby Foundation’s investment in sport in Malaysia, during which time it has seen some 45 talented youngsters benefit from the programme’s holistic approach that covers technique, mental preparation, physical fitness and personal development.
The annual programme starts in July and culminates with an opportunity for each year’s in-take of 16 participants to qualify for one of Asia’s leading professional women’s golf tournaments, the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club, a Golf Facility Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation.
Tun Musa Hitam, Chairman of the Sime Darby Foundation, said the investment is an essential element of the Group’s commitment.
“The Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Development Programme is a key component of the Sime Darby Foundation’s investment for sports in this country and it is producing encouraging results.
“Having started with just one active player on a professional golf Tour, Malaysia now has seven professional golfers playing on Tours around the world; eight amateur participants have been absorbed into the National Elite team; 18 programme graduates have secured local and international college golf scholarships; and Kelly Tan and Michelle Koh are steadily making their way up the Olympics rankings ahead of next year’s Olympics.
“In 2010, the programme was struggling to fill its 12 places with eligible players. In 2015, due to the programme’s growing reputation as a ‘must attend camp’ for aspiring golfers, it has attracted 70 potentials who were shortlisted to 30 who made the necessary criteria.
“After a further shortlist, 16 players were selected as the best talents across the country. The women’s game in Malaysia is in a stronger position now as a direct result of this programme, and I hope very much that this year’s participants will take full advantage of the opportunity provided by the programme to improve their game and move up the rankings in the process.”
Established in 2010 by the Sime Darby Foundation in conjunction with the MST Golf Academy to support the development of elite Malaysian golfing talent, the Sime Darby LPGA Development Programme utilises a combination of both on and off course training with some of the world’s most respected coaches. The programme is aimed at providing participants with the psychological, physiological and technical expertise required to compete at the highest level.
Classroom sessions cover topics such as movement preparation, ball flight laws, diet and nutrition, fitness, mental game skills, club fitting and gap analysis, while the intensive golf practice sessions focus on improving students’ short game, putting, difficult lies and advanced shot-making.
The 2015 edition of the programme welcomes eight new players under the age of 15, while returning beneficiaries include Aretha Pan Herng (21), Michelle Low (26) and the latest Malaysian to turn professional, Dianne Luke (24).
A regular figure on the programme’s schedule is Australian coach Ian Triggs. He said: “There is no question that there is now genuine progress within the women’s game in Malaysia. That progress is evident in the achievement of some of the top players’ performances on Tour; graduates of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Development Programme making the transition to professional status; and the increased depth of talent that we are starting to see among some of the younger players joining the programme.
“Successful development programmes such as this require a long term vision, combined with the investment and resources to carry it through and it is, once again, credit to Sime Darby that after six years, this programme is showing some tangible results.”
This year also sees the integration of Sime Darby and KLGCC’s new Rising Star Juniors talent search into the programme. The community-sports programme, benefiting boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 17 from under-privileged backgrounds, was launched this year and has 18 students under tuition, who will benefit from the coaching and life-skills assistance provided by the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Development Programme.
Also new to the 2015 programme is the addition of a segment providing a behind the scenes look at Golf Club and Hospitality Operations. In the knowledge that not all players will make it onto professional Tours, the objective is to ensure that participants have an understanding of, and future career path within, the broader golf industry after completing their studies.