No request for assistance from golfer Natasha as she targets Olympic debut

KUALA LUMPUR: Golfer Natasha Andrea Oon is in a good position to qualify for the Paris Olympics next year on merit.

However, she has not sought any assistance from the Youth and Sports Ministry.

This was disclosed by its minister, Hannah Yeoh, who mentioned that Natasha made no personal requests during her brief meeting with the six competitors at the ongoing Maybank Championship at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club today.

The current projection for Natasha to secure a top-60 position through the International Golf Federation (IGF) Olympic Rankings requires her to be ranked within the top 350 of the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings by June 24 next year.

Having stood out in the second-tier Epson Tour this season, Natasha currently holds a comfortable 52nd place in the Olympic Rankings, thanks to her world ranking of No. 267.

Unless any unforeseen circumstances arise, Natasha is on track to make her Olympic debut.

She has already secured her LPGA Tour card for 2024, further enhancing her chances of earning more world ranking points in the first half of the year.

Kelly Tan, the only Malaysian playing on the LPGA Tour since 2014, faces a tougher challenge to qualify for her third straight Olympics as she is currently ranked No. 460.

"Natasha did not ask anything for herself," said Yeoh in a press conference today.

"We had a conversation with the six girls to understand their needs and how we can better support them, but none of them have asked anything for themselves.

"Obviously the money that the ministry set aside to support athletes will never be enough. We have Road to Gold (RTG) which will be meeting next Tuesday to look into several athletes who have qualified for the Paris Olympics and preparations for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

"More details will be announced after the meeting."

Yeoh explained that the six golfers who met her, comprising also Kelly, Ashley Lau, Alyaa Abdulghany, Jeneath Wong and Ng Jing Xuen, had collectively agreed that it was time for a solid talent development programme to be revived.

They could be referring to the successful now-defunct Sime Darby LPGA Development Programme from 2010-2017, where Kelly was one of the most notable alumni.

It also helped produce Michelle Koh, the 2016 Rio Olympian and one-time China LPGA Tour winner.

"They have given a suggestion that the talent development camp should be revived again in Malaysia so that younger girls have a gathering place to train together and support each other," she said.

Meanwhile, Yeoh also announced that the ministry has allocated RM1mil through its 'Sports Matching Grant' initiative to support the staging of the Maybank Championship.

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