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Golf - 13. August 2015.

Top ranked ‘Malaysian Angels’ awarded sponsor exemptions at showpiece event.

KUALA LUMPUR, 13 AUGUST 2015 – Malaysia’s top three ranked players, Kelly Tan, Michelle Koh and Ainil Bakar, have been awarded qualifying exemptions for one of the region’s leading international golf tournaments, the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia 2015, which tees off at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club (KLGCC) from 8-11 October.

The highly sought after 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.

Malaysia’s top ranked player and LPGA Tour regular, Kelly Tan, is currently ranked 193 in the world rankings* and 93 on the LPGA Money List. 2015 showed early promise for the 21 year old from Johor but she is yet to make the breakthrough that she promised when she made a LPGA career-best T4 at last year’s Marathon Classic. But a return to the familiar hunting grounds of KLGCC, combined with the support she can expect on the East Course will be a major boost.

Tan 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!”

25 year old Michelle 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 this year. Always a popular figure around KLGCC, she left fans wondering what might have been after Round 4 in 2014, shooting an impressive five under par to leave her tied with Tan for honours among the six Malaysians competing. The pair finished at two over par and tied in 49th place.

Speaking about her return to KLGCC, 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. Look forward to seeing you in October.”

Meanwhile 26 year old Ainil Bakar continues to make her way up the world rankings since turning professional in 2012 and plays on the Ladies European Tour and Ladies Asian Golf Tour. Speaking about her return to the East Course, Bakar 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 Bakar 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 the world’s most prestigious golf institution, Pendleton School at IMG Academies in Florida. Bakar, meanwhile, received funding support for two years to compete on the Ladies Asian Golf Tour (LAGT) and the Ladies European Tour (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.

Speaking about the first sponsor exemption places awarded, 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 12 August. 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.”

Billed ‘the nation’s most fun golf event’, the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia 2015 sees a host of new initiatives planned both on and off the golf course, promising four days of fun-filled entertainment complete with live DJs, food stalls, Kids Zone, Chip-4-Charity, and it’s very own KL Food Truck Festival.

Open to the public from 8-11 October, from 7.30am to 6pm, the sixth edition of the US$ 2 million purse tournament will take place on the East course of KLGCC. 75 players will compete in the 72-hole stroke play, no cut tournament for one of the largest prize purses in Asia.

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