Rookie Natasha draws experience ahead of LPGA Tour debut

KUALA LUMPUR: National No. 1 Natasha Andrea Oon has vowed to draw on her big tournament experience in the Maybank Championship as she prepares for her first full season on the LPGA Tour in 2024.

Playing in her first tournament since earning her LPGA Tour card, the 22-year-old achieved a tied-52nd finish, closing with a one-under 71 at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club on Sunday.

She traded three birdies against a lone bogey, finishing her campaign with three-under 285.

Given that the West Course was in an ideal scoring condition, she felt she could have performed better.

However, the Epson Tour Rookie of the Year chose to focus on the positives, particularly enjoying the experience of playing in front of a packed home crowd.

"I wish I could have gone lower, but honestly the fans here are showing up and I can totally hear them and it's so cool to see how Malaysia supports women's golf," said Natasha.

"There are so many people, and there are these nerves when you play with crowds, and I'm not used to crowds so sometimes it's overwhelming.

"It's such a great introduction to what I should expect next year. I'm going to have to get more comfortable playing in front of crowds.

"I think it was such a good stepping experience for me for next year. There is so much room for me to grow. These (LPGA Tour) players are awesome. They're literally killing it out there every single week.

"So I have to step my game up, and this is such a good introduction to what I should expect next year."

The Maybank Championship marked only Natasha's third LPGA Tour start as a professional.

Before this, she had competed in the Dana Open and Portland Classic in 2022, both times also through sponsors' invites.

She secured her LPGA Tour card by finishing among the top 10 in this season's Epson Tour, the developmental circuit for LPGA.

This made her only the third Malaysian following Lim Siew Ai and Kelly Tan to compete in the premier women's golf circuit.

Promising amateur Jeneath Wong demonstrated her capability to compete with the LPGA Tour elites, finishing a commendable tied-57th with 287. This placed her second among the six Malaysian representatives.

Jeneath tallied five birdies, with four in succession starting from the 15th hole. However, her three bogeys and a double bogey somewhat offset her impressive birdie streak.

Another Epson Tour duo, Ashley Lau and Alyaa Abdulghany, closed with 75 and 71 respectively. Ashley finished tied for 65th on 293, while Abdulghany secured a solo 73rd place on 297.

Sea Games gold medalist Ng Jing Xuen recorded a 76, placing her in a solo 74th position with a 299 total.

Meanwhile, Kelly suffered her worst outing in a home LPGA tournament, finishing in a disappointing 74th place with a 301 total after battling to an 80.

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