By SHIV DAS / Pic LPGA
One of Malaysia’s most prestigious sporting events, the Sime Darby LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) Malaysia, is set to return later this year when the eighth edition of the tournament tees off from Oct 26-29.
TPC Kuala Lumpur (KL) will once again host the four-day festival, which has built a reputation for entertainment that takes place off-course, as much as the action on it.
Sime Darby Foundation (SDF) chairman Tun Musa Hitam said the tournament serves as an important catalyst for women’s development in golf in Malaysia and a crucial platform to raise awareness of the research conducted by Cancer Research Malaysia (CRM).
“The Sime Darby LPGA serves as a platform for Malaysia’s best young female talent to compete in a world class event, providing them much needed exposure. I am also proud to see that the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Development Programme is being revamped with various improvements to create a higher impact for our young talented female golfers,” he said, adding: “I am pleased to see that the tournament has helped non-profit CRM raise some RM2.5 million for cancer research and awareness about the disease in the country.”
TPC KL CEO and Sime Darby LPGA 2017 tournament committee chairman Steven Thielke said this year the committee would work with a number of new partners to add more excitement to the entertainment featured at the tournament.
“We know we have a great golf tournament out on course, but it’s what happens off-course that really makes this event special and we want to take that to a new level in 2017. We will be looking to introducing a real party atmosphere with live bands and Chef Arnold’s kitchen creations.”
Thielke said the committee would be redesigning the Courtyard Marquee to enable visitors to get closer to the players on the putting green and there would be lots of interactive experiences, some serious bargains for shoppers, as well as a revamped Kids Zone.
“The idea is to ensure that irrespective of whether you’re a golfer, foodie, music lover or just a group of friends looking for a great day out, the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia is the only place to be over the last weekend in October,” he added.
Meanwhile the tournament’s first two-time champion, China’s Feng Shan-Shan, has confirmed her title defence as she looks to make it three victories in four years. Feng, currently ranked seventh on the Women’s World Golf Rankings, said the Sime Darby LPGA was undeniably one of the best tournaments for female golfers to compete all year.
“We’re looked after really well, the fans are great and there’s always just so much going on. And yes, I have to mention the food, it’s great!”
Feng won Bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and recently clinched the championship trophy at the LPGA Volvik Championship in May.
Also quick to confirm participation in this year’s tournament are former world No 1 Lydia Ko of New Zealand and Canada’s Brooke Henderson. Ko relinquished the top spot she had held for 84 weeks to Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn in June, but will be looking forward to the Asia swing.
Said Ko, “I always love getting back to Asia at the end of the year and playing the tournaments and the Sime Darby event has to be one of the best. It’s a lot of fun, played on a really good course and everybody’s just really appreciative of the whole event. I came pretty close in 2015 when Jessica won, but will just get out there and give it my best shot and see what I can do.”
The 19-year-old Henderson stormed onto the international golf scene in 2015 with a win at the Portland Classic and backed it up with three further wins, including a first Major in 2016.
Said Henderson, “I really enjoyed my first time playing the Sime Darby LPGA last year in Malaysia. The event was first-class and the fans were so supportive. I look forward to using my experience from the golf course last year to contend for the championship this October!”
One of the mainstays of the tournament has always been its continued investment in the development of young female golfers in Malaysia. Funded by the SDF, the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Development Programme will return, providing the 2017 intake of talented professionals, top amateurs and youngsters with a world-class two-part programme.
Part 1 is a five-month support for 20 top female athletes with access to professional services and facilities at TPC KL. These benefits include specialised golf tuition, fitness training, physiotherapy, mental coaching, fife coaching and counselling.
Part 2 of the programme is a five-week intensive training session open to a wider talent pool of Malaysian female golfers, including a week of training with world renowned coach Ian Triggs from Australia.
The programme will culminate in the National Qualifying Tournament, Sept 19-20, which will provide a pathway for four nationals to secure berths in the prestigious tournament, with a further place available for a regional winner.
The tournament will also provide starting places for two Junior Amateurs, who will be selected based on performance over a series of qualifying events in Malaysia.
The eighth edition of the US$1.8 million (RM7.72 million) purse Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia will take place on the East Course of TPC KL. A total of 78 players, including 63 players from the LPGA Tour will compete in the 72-hole stroke play, no-cut tournament.