Six of the best from Malaysia at Maybank Championship

KUALA LUMPUR: The six local contenders, led by Malaysia's sole LPGA Tour player, Kelly Tan, are set to make their mark in front of home fans at the inaugural Maybank Championship which starts at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club on Thursday.

The US$3 million (RM14.33 million) tournament marks the return of an LPGA Tour event to Malaysia, six years since the last edition of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia was last held at the same venue.

Joining Kelly are Natasha Andrea Oon, Ashley Lau, and Alyaa Abdul Ghany, all of whom recently concluded their season on the Epson Tour, the LPGA Tour's developmental circuit, earlier this month.

The six-member Malaysian contingent, which also include promising amateurs Jeneath Wong and Ng Jing Xuen, are arguably the strongest to compete in an LPGA Tour event here.

The 29-year-old Kelly will be leading by example as they go up against some of the most prominent stars in women's golf, including China's Yin Ruo Ning, South Korea's Ko Jin Young, and Celine Boutier of France - the current top five players in the world.

"I hate to say this. I'm sitting here and going to be turning 30 and the oldest. I don't like this," quipped Kelly.

"Previously when we did these, I was always one of the youngest. I guess time has gone by, I feel like women's golf in Malaysia has come a long way. I'm excited for the next youngsters that are coming up.

"I'm sure we're all going to do our best and try and make Malaysia proud."

While Kelly has been a household name for years, all eyes will undoubtedly be on 21-year-old Natasha, who is currently the highest-ranked Malaysian on the women's world rankings at No. 267.

She has had an outstanding debut year as a professional, claiming her first title at the El Dorado Shootout in September and securing three runner-up finishes.

These achievements led her to earn the title of Epson Tour Rookie of the Year and a promotion to the LPGA Tour next season.

Natasha was just 16 when she last played in the LPGA Tour event here as an amateur in 2017.

"Just getting that tour card and playing in my first LPGA tournament as a confirmed LPGA Tour member in Malaysia is a full circle moment," said Natasha.

"I feel like there is probably quite a bit of expectations from the public. I'm just trying to not think about that. LPGA is a different level, it's top level. It's like if you want to compete with the best this is where you got to be."

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