Kuala Lumpur, May 31: Australia’s Whitney Hilliershot a stunning 65 to usurp defending champion and hot favourite Kelly Tan to clinch the 29th Malaysian Ladies Amateur Open in dramatic fashion.
The 21-year-old from Perth, who is ranked 15th in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, bounced back from a poor second round on Wednesday, lighting up the East Course at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club with a sizzling six-under-par 65 to beat local challenger Kelly by one stroke.
Filipino Dottie Ardina, the 2007 individual champion, finished third on two-under-par 211 while her compatriot Princess Superal was a further shot back in fourth after a round of 73. Former Malaysian Amateur Open winner Aretha Pan Herng was ranked fifth on level-par 213.
Eight strokes off the pace at the start of the round, Hillier traded seven birdies against a single blemish on the par-four eighth, including a run of four birdies in six holes on the inward nine, to become the first-ever Australian winner of the prestigious national ladies amateur championship.
“It’s just been an amazing week really. I just went out there today with no expectations and had so much fun and support out there. I’m really happy with the way I played today and being the champion is a great bonus,” said Hillier, who claimed her third amateur crown of the year having won the Lake Macquarie Amateur Open and the Riverdale Women’s Cup in her native Australia earlier in the year.
“I started off well, mixing three birdies and a bogey on the front nine and went into the back nine with some good thoughts and vibes and it definitely got me rolling those three consecutive birdies from the 13th which put me in contention,” shared the lass of English-Thai parentage.
“My putting was a lot stronger today. My ironplay has really improved day-on-day, the first day it was really scrappy but I managed to post a good score. Yesterday it didn’t do the trick but it really came to the fore today and I was on fire,” she added, noting that her putting on the day made all the difference.”
Hillier admitted that she was surprised to find herself ahead after finishing her round.
“I didn’t realise that I was so close to Kelly but I just went for it. I really wasn’t trying to think too much about her [Kelly] score because she has just been great this week. She could have easily made four or three-under today but it didn’t happen and I’m quite surprised to stand here as the winner,” she added.
A disappointing first nine of three bogeys against a birdie saw Kelly failing to get her game going early on and her performance continued to unravel on the back nine. The top-ranked Malaysian admitted that nerves came into play towards the end.
“I didn’t know that Whitney had charged back until the 15th and I guess it did raise the stakes a little bit and the pressure got into my head,” said Kelly, who dropped a bogey on the 16th to drop behind Hillier before seeing her short birdie putt on 17th lip out.
“It hurts because I lost by such a narrow margin but if I’m taking something from this tournament, is that I should play every shot as if it’s the last,” she added dejectedly.
Nur Islamiah Fuad claimed the Division 2 title after garnering a 231 total on the back of rounds of 75,80 and 76 while Korea’s Kim Joo Yeon topped the Division 3 rankings with a overall score of 254 (85-83-86).
The nation’s leading team of Kelly, Aretha Pan and Iman Ahmad Nordin emerged victorious in the team championship for the Mary Williams Trophy.
Leading final round scores
208 Whitney Hillier (AUS) 68-75-65
209 Kelly Tan Guat Chen (MAS) 68-67-74
211 Dottie Ardina (PHI) 68-75-68
212 Princess Superal (PHI) 71-67-74
213 Aretha Pan (MAS) 71-69-73
214; Savitree Thavong (THA) 71-70-73
217; Suthavee Chanachai (THA) 73-71-73
219; Sitarnat Singhanart (THA) 73-75-71, Koh Sock Hwee (SIN) 74-72-73, Vani Sanjeev Kapoor (IND) 73-70-76
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