Hafiy Suhaili secured himself into the joint lead of the Toyota Tour Qualifying School Leg 1, after scoring five birdies against three bogeys for a two-under 70 and a two-day aggregate of 144 at the Tiara Melaka Golf & Country Club.
Overnight leader and pre-tournament favourite Malcolm Ting couldn’t find his swing and, despite recording four birdies, his scorecard was undone by four bogeys and a double. He ended up with a two-over 74 and an aggregate of 144.
Joining Hafiy and Ting in the last group for tomorrow’s final round is amateur Hariz Hezri who managed to finish with an even-par 72 and at 147 is within striking distance of the leaders. Hariz started the day brightly, with a birdie-eagle on his opening holes but a horrible 8 on the par 4 14th spoilt his card.
Hafiy, who hails from Kelantan, is looking towards vanquishing the demons of last year’s qualifying school at Kelab Golf Perkhidmatan Awam when he was only four over after two rounds. On the final round he blew up with a 14-over 86 and missed his tour card by three strokes. “I’m better prepared this time,” said Hafiy whose 70 was the low score of the day.
“I’ve worked on my consistency and the results are showing. I’m happy with my game and look forward to obtaining playing rights on the Toyota Tour.”
Ting wasn’t pleased with his performance. “I wasn’t hitting the ball well but, it is what it is. Hopefully I’ll do better tomorrow.”
Tan Ying Ying, the 14-year-old amateur from Kulim who surprised with a one-over 73 yesterday, stayed on course for a Toyota Tour card when she carded a five-over 77 and a two-day aggregate of 150. She is now six over and has nine strokes to spare going into tomorrow’s final round.
“I could have played better,” said the shy girl who names Tiger Woods and Atthaya Thitikul as her golf idols. This is the first time that Ying Ying is paired with professionals which is something of a good lesson for her.
A total of 39 players from a starting field of 64 advanced into tomorrow’s final round with the aim of securing playing rights on the Toyota Tour which is organised by the Professional Golf Malaysia and delivered by MST Golf. Participants who manage to score 15-over and better will be granted their coveted tour cards.
Following the qualifying school, the opening round of the Toyota Tour – the Tun Ahmad Sarji Trophy – will take place at the Saujana Golf & Country Club from Feb 27-29.
Leading Round 2 Scores
144 (Even) - Hafiy Suhaili 74-70; Malcolm Ting 70-74
147 (+3) - Hariz Hezri (am) 75-72
148 (+4) - New Fu Yeong (am) 75-73
150 (+6) - Tan Ying Ying (am) 73-77
Major winner Patty Tavatanakit will headline the March 7-10 Hana Financial Group Singapore Women’s Open (HFGSWO) alongside defending champion Park Ji-young and 2023 Korean Ladies Professional Golf Association (KLPGA) money list topper Lee Ye-won, organisers announced on Wednesday (Feb 21).
Some of South Korea’s top female golfers are also set to feature at Tanah Merah Country Club’s Tampines course along with Thai rising stars Jaravee Boonchant and Natthakritta Vongtaveelap, Malaysian Ashley Lau as well as a slew of players from Australia, New Zealand, China and Japan.
Top Singapore professionals Amanda Tan and Koh Sock Hwee had earlier confirmed their attendance at the national Open, alongside elite national amateur players Aloysa Atienza, Jaymie Ng, Chen Xingtong and Jillian Kuk.
Patty, the 2021 LPGA Rookie of the Year, will be looking to build on her momentum and clinch her first KLPGA Tour title in Singapore after a dominant performance saw her triumph at the Aramco Saudi Ladies International on Feb 18. Her victory at the Riyadh Golf Club is her maiden title on the Ladies European Tour and her first win since she won the 2021 ANA Inspiration in her breakout rookie year on the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
She said: “I am very excited to be competing in my first Hana Financial Group Singapore Women's Open. I have good memories from competing in Singapore and I hope I can create more good memories by hopefully winning for the first time there. It is thanks to sponsors like the Hana Financial Group that I'm able to pursue my passion and play golf professionally and I'm very grateful for the support they have given me.
It was an emotional moment when I won the Aramco Saudi Ladies International; it’s been a long time since I’ve played this well and I’ve worked really hard to get here and overcome that. I’ve grown and learnt so much over the past couple of years and I’m looking forward to carrying that energy and mindset with me to Singapore. It will be a tough three consecutive weeks of competition, but I'm looking forward to it. I'm just going to go out there and have fun playing while making sure I recover well so that I can carry on this momentum for the rest of the season.”
Meanwhile, world No. 56 Park will be looking to start the year in style once more with her eight KLPGA title. In the inaugural HFGSWO in December 2022 – which also served as the Tour's season-opener, she clinched her fifth KLPGA Tour title as heavy rain forced the cancellation of the third and final round.
Her stellar performance in the opening 36 holes, shooting rounds of 66 and 67 to reach 11-under-par 133, sealed her victory by a narrow margin, edging out the trio of Hong Jung-min, Lee So-young, and Park Hyun-kyung by just one shot.
This triumph set the stage for Park's impressive run later in the season, where she added two more victories at the EVERCOLLAGEN The Sienna Queens Crown and KB Financial Group STAR Championship.
She said: “I feel a little nervous and excited for HFGSWO because it’s my first title defence in 2024, but I’ll do my best as much as I prepared diligently. Frankly, I don't feel much pressure, I just want to show my best performance again like last time. I remember that my iron shots and putts were very good last year, so I'm going to try to recall that feeling this year. Winning the tournament in 2022 was a special moment for me and it gave me a lot of confidence going into the rest of the season. I hope I will be able to repeat that success this time.”
Park is keenly aware of the formidable challenge posed by her competitors as she prepares to defend her title, with 16 of the top 20 finishers from last season's points standings poised to bring their A-game to the new season's battleground away from home.
Besides Patty and reigning KLPGA Player of the Year Lee, Park will also have to contend with heavyweights including KLPGA Rookie of the Year Kim Min-byeol and 2022 KLPGA Player of the Year Park Min-ji.
World No. 32 Lee is determined to continue her stellar performance from the exceptional 2023 season, in which she clinched three victories and secured four runner-up finishes. Additionally, she boasted an impressive record of 14 top-10 finishes in the 29 tournaments she participated in.
After proving herself on home turf, Lee is eager to make her mark with her first victory abroad. She said: “When I participated HFG SWO in 2022, I felt like the course suits me well. so I’m excited to compete in the tournament again. It was difficult for me to read the green, because the slope and undulation of the green were not familiar, but I think I'll be able to play aggressively this year due to experience of 2022.
I also had good memories having delicious food in Singapore and hope to try them again. I can’t name one specific dish, but I loved the food here. Last season was exceptional; I’m still proud of it and I’m also happy that I’ve been continuing to grow. I hope I make another great year once again. My goal is to play my games all through the year steadily and have the most wins title at the end of the year.”
The 1 billion Won (S$1.1 million) HFGSWO is jointly sanctioned by the Singapore Golf Association (SGA) and Korean Ladies Professional Golf Association (KLPGA) and will form a part of the Ladies Asian Tour Series.
Tickets to the HFGSWO start from $20 and are available on Ticketmaster. Updates on the event are available here.
Malaysia’s rising star Ashley Lau believes the opportunity to tee up at the Hana Financial Group Singapore Women's Open is just too good to turn down, prompting her to postpone a return to the United States where she's based.
The 23-year-old is one of the two Malaysians, alongside Genevieve Ling, set to tee it up at the S$1.1 million event at Tanah Merah Country Club, which serves as the curtain-raiser for the 2024 KLPGA Tour season from March 7-10.
Lau, currently competing full-time on the Epson Tour, the developmental circuit for the LPGA Tour, has demonstrated excellent form in recent months while participating on the WPGA Tour of Australasia, and she's eager to replicate those performances in the Lion City.
Lau had a remarkable run Down Under, participating in five consecutive events between January and February, with the highlight being her victory at the Vic Open, marking her maiden professional career triumph.
Her win was even more satisfying as she defeated former world number one and winner of 64 titles worldwide Ji-yai Shin of South Korea by a single shot, denying the latter a successful title defence at the tournament.
Lau also secured a solo runner-up finish at the mixed-field Webex Players Series, emerging as the highest-placed woman competitor in the tournament.
Now, Lau eagerly anticipates measuring herself against the heavyweights of the KLPGA Tour at the Hana Financial Group Singapore Women's Open, where 16 of the top 20 finishers from last season's points standings are set to compete.
Among the notable names headlining the field is KLPGA Player of the Year Lee Ye-won, KLPGA Rookie of the Year Kim Min-byeol, Hyun-kyung, Bang Shin-sil, 2022 KLPGA Player of the Year Park Min-ji, Ma Da-som, Hwang You-min, and Lee Da-yeon.
Given this formidable lineup, it's understandable why Lau had no hesitation in forgoing the Epson Tour's season-opening Florida's Natural Charity Classic, which coincides with the Singapore event.
"When the opportunity came, I just took it. It’s a good field so I’m looking forward to it," said Lau.
"I’ll be missing the first Epson event, but there’s a whole year. It will be good preparation because anytime I’m playing, I learn something new about my game or realise where I can improve, so all these help sharpen my skills."
Meanwhile, Ling is relishing her return to the KLPGA Tour and the opportunity to compete against some of the world's best competitors, albeit for just a one-off appearance.
Ling had previously earned a limited status to play on the KLPGA Tour in 2018 after winning the 'Cinderella Story' reality TV program.
Since turning professional in 2017, Ling, who has traversed various circuits, including the Ladies European Tour, Taiwan LPGA, China LPGA, and Women's All Pro Tour in the United States, has gained extensive experience.
"I competed for a little bit on the KLPGA my first year as a pro in 2018 after winning the 'Cinderella story' hosted by Quad Sports, so I’ve experienced what it is like to compete against them and why they are so good," said Ling.
"I’m grateful to the organisers for the invite slot because I love competing and so I cherish every opportunity I get to compete, especially when it’s against some of the best in the world!
"The last time I competed with these girls, I was a true rookie and it opened my eyes to what life on the professional tour would be like, so it’s great to get the opportunity to compete against them again fie years later.
"Having travelled and played golf worldwide as well, I think I’d now be able to go into the week not as a wide-eyed rookie, so I’m hoping to come back with some good scores and a good result at the Singapore Women's Open."
The Hana Financial Group Singapore Women’s Open is jointly sanctioned by the Singapore Golf Association (SGA) and Korean Ladies Professional Golf Association (KLPGA) and will form a part of the Ladies Asian Tour Series.
Malcolm Ting surged into the lead after round one of the Toyota Tour Qualifying School Leg 1 when he carded a two-under 70 on a sun-baked Tiara Melaka GCC course.
On a hot and windy day, Ting registered four birdies against two bogeys to emerge as the only player in the field of 64 who played to par or better, chalking up a two-stroke lead over amateur lady Tan Ying Ying who surprised with a one-over 73.
Hafiy Suhaili finished a stroke further back while six others including Toyota Tour 2023 Elite Junior player Wan Hasnul Daniel finished at three-over 75s.
“I had a good start with three birdies in a row from the Par 5 second hole,” said Ting. “Added another on the Par 3 sixth then got stopped by a bogey on the next.”
As the day got hotter, Ting’s focus started to wither and he bogeyed 13th, regrouped for a birdie on the 16 but bogeyed the tough Par 3 17th which, unsurprisingly played as the toughest hole today, averaging at 3.85.
“The course layout is not easy and trying to manage it was more challenging in the hot sun,” said Ting.
“But I managed to keep my cool and am very satisfied with my round.”
Ting turned pro in October last year after competing in the prestigious Asia Pacific Amateur Championship in Melbourne. He also represented Asia against Europe in the Ryder Cup-styled Bonallack Trophy in Malaga, Spain.
The primary objective of this event is to provide golfers with the opportunity to secure playing rights on the Toyota Tour for the 2024 season. Competitors will vie for a chance to advance their careers on the Toyota Tour which is organised by the Professional Golf Malaysia and delivered by MST Golf.
Participants who manage to score 15-over and better will be granted their coveted tour cards, signifying a significant milestone in their professional golf journey.
Following the qualifying school, the opening round of the Toyota Tour – the Tun Ahmad Sarji Trophy – will take place at the Saujana Golf & Country Club from Feb 27-29.
Leading Round One Scores
70 (-2) - Malcolm Ting
73 (+1) - Tan Ying Ying (am)
74 (+2) - Hafiy Suhaili
75 (+3) - Amalia Shahzan (am), Chong Chee Ming, Hariz Hezri (am), Wan Hasnul Daniel (am), New Fu Yeong (am), Zaeem Jafri
The Hong Kong Open, the celebrated tournament at the core of the Asian golf calendar for over six decades, will be played from November 21-24 this year – at the fabled Hong Kong Golf Club (HKGC), Fanling.
Offering lucrative prizemoney of US$2 million, the event will play a pivotal role in shaping the conclusion of the Asian Tour season.
For the second year in succession, it will also form part of The International Series – 10 elevated events that are integrated into the Asian Tour schedule providing a pathway to the LIV Golf League.
“This year marks the 63rd staging of the Hong Kong Open, and the Hong Kong Golf Club is excited to see it once again positioned as one of the season-ending tournaments, when there is so much to play for,” said Andy Kwok, Captain, HKGC – who are celebrating their 135th anniversary this year.
“We are looking to build on last year’s successful tournament, boosting the event and the club’s stature in the game by welcoming back a wonderful selection of world-class golfers and fans from right across the Greater Bay Area and beyond.”
A world-class line up of players will return and will gradually be unveiled over the next few months, for a tournament that is one of only two events in the history of the game to be hosted at the same venue for over six decades - alongside The Masters Tournament at Augusta.
Said Cho Minn Thant, Commissioner & CEO, Asian Tour: “At the end of last year we were delighted to announce our initial schedule for 2024, which featured the Hong Kong Open – being able to confirm the dates today allows us to take a step another closer to completing the jigsaw.
“The Hong Kong Open and the Hong Kong Golf Club are woven into the fabric of the Asian Tour, and so it is always key to our success to have all aspects of the event confirmed early on. The Club’s iconic course was voted by our members as the joint best course of the year last season, and I am sure more accolades await this year. We thank the Club, their captain Andy Kwok and Ian Gardner the General Manager, plus the Golf Association of Hong Kong China for their ongoing support and commitment.”
New Zealander Ben Campbell raised the trophy last November after a gripping finish. He wrote his name into Hong Kong Open folklore with a gutsy victory, draining a 15-foot birdie putt on the final green to defeat playing partners Cam Smith from Australia and Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai. Campbell had not led at any stage of the tournament until that brilliant last putt.
The Asian Tour currently boasts 21 events visiting 13 countries with a significant number of important tournaments to be added.
Once finalised it is expected that the schedule will surpass last year– which saw 23 events staged with aggregate prize money of US$35 million.