RSGC’s extra special Ladies Amateur Open

It has the trappings of a professional tournament, and yet, it’s just a ladies amateur event. But by no means an ordinary one. It’s the 44th Royal Selangor Golf Club (RSGC) Ladies Amateur Open Championship 2018, starting tomorrow and marking the club’s 125th anniversary.

The oldest ladies amateur tournament (over three days), held at the oldest golf club in the country (fourth-oldest in Asia) makes for something special. While the marvel is there in terms of sponsors, it’s the international participation that also sets the event apart.

Take this in. Main sponsors comprise property developers Agile and MKH Bhd; while the co-sponsors are Qatar Airways, Standard Chartered Bank and Senheng Electric (KL) Sdn Bhd.

For hole-in-one achievers, a Peugeot 3008 and a “girl’s best friend”, a pair of La Putri diamond earrings worth RM23,000, two return air tickets from Qatar Airways to any European destination and a Titoni watch await them.

Impiana KLCC is once again the official hotel, Titoni Ltd the official timekeeper and 100Plus the tournament drink. Participants will be ferried to and from the hotel by Kia Carnivals, the official tournament car.

The players will also have access to a special Players’ Lounge and get free foot massages by Si Fu, as well as pre-game warm up sessions, courtesy of Synapse.

Why wouldn’t all of that attract competitors from near and far? There are players from Japan, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore — and not for the first time — and newcomers from Kazakhstan and Sri Lanka, to round off the total of 100 players taking part.

There are the Tuanku Bahiyah (Gross Champion), Toh Puan Norashikin (Nett Champion), Datin Azian (Team Gross Champion) and Clarissa Lee (Team Nett Champion) trophies to play for.

The players have to be handicap 17.4 and below to take part. While the competition tends to be serious for low handicappers with world ranking, the higher handicappers include foreign nationals, who once resided in the country and who are happy to return for the memories and friendships they continue to treasure and wish to keep alive.

It’s Datuk Yasmin Yusuff, the club’s ladies golf captain and organising chairman, in the groove again for the second time this year and recognised as having elevated the event to the level it now enjoys.

Last year, it was ranked third in the country, stacked alongside the South-East Asian Games and the Malaysian Ladies Amateur Open. The country’s women in golf goes back all the way to 1896, three years after the club came into being.

“Since then, the number of lady members has continued to grow as they take to the elegant and empowering sport,” she said.

The event had helped produce champions.

Among the first, Lim Siew Ai (champion in 1991, 1997 and 1998), who went on to become the country’s first to play in the US Ladies Professional Golf Association circuit. (She now has her own coaching set-up).

Club captain Chang See Tum acknowledged that to walk through the club and its course is like walking through the nation’s history. In hosting the amateur event, the club was playing a role in the development of the game in the country, if not the region.

It added to the role the club had been playing in hosting professional Tour events, such as the Malaysian Open, which allowed local fans to see legends of the game in action, namely Peter Thomson in the 60s and Severiano Ballesteros and Nick Faldo in the 90s.

Similarly with the inaugural Maybank Championship (2016), with many of today’s European and Asian Tour stars for fans to get up close with.

The club had also hosted regional amateur team championships, the Nomura Cup (Asia Pacific) and Putra Cup (South-East Asia).

Chang went further down memory lane when he said the club, in its early days, was not that accommodating of lady members, who were not allowed to play on the second nine and didn’t have access to certain areas of the club that were considered strictly male domain.

But, all that isn’t true anymore and women are on equal footing with their male counterparts.

He was fearful of them coming together and passing a vote of no-confidence on him and, when the laughter died down, he said he admired Yasmin for having pulled in all the sponsors and media exposure worth RM3 million. Something her male counterparts hadn’t quite been able to match.

Yes, she had once represented the country in the Miss Universe pageant, but recalling it in a whisper was all the indication anyone needed that he wasn’t seriously trotting that out as reason for her success as event organiser.

It’s a competition that’s been put together by sheer hard work by her and her team of dedicated individuals that was given further attribution in the form of a new tournament logo unveiled.

Credit went largely to Kam Su-Shuin and Emma Abdullah for the design that incorporates a ribbon symbolising women, the outline of a trophy, the prizes and the club’s corporate colour, green.

The anniversary celebrations will climax on Aug 25, with invitees of reciprocal clubs from around the world attending the President’s Gala Dinner. — COURTESY OF GOLF MALAYSIA