Strong foreign field for SLGA open

(From left) Jacqueline Young, Sarah Tan and Callista Chen practising at Singapore Island Country Club. Callista, in particular, is upbeat about her chances at the 27th Singapore Ladies Amateur Open as it is on her home Keppel Club course and the long
(From left) Jacqueline Young, Sarah Tan and Callista Chen practising at Singapore Island Country Club. Callista, in particular, is upbeat about her chances at the 27th Singapore Ladies Amateur Open as it is on her home Keppel Club course and the long hitter can reach all the par fives in two. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Teen trio lead local charge at Keppel Club, with winner getting spot in Viet tournament

Bragging rights will not be the only thing at stake at this week's Singapore Ladies Golf Association (SLGA) Amateur Open Championship.

Not only will it offer World Amateur Golf Ranking points, but for the first time, the winner will also earn an invite to next year's The Dalat 1200 Ladies Championship, a US$420,000 (S$580,000) professional tournament in Vietnam on the Korean LPGA Tour.

Unsurprisingly, the SLGA event, which will take place at Keppel Club from Wednesday to Friday, has attracted one of its strongest fields in years.

A total of 95 players from nine teams, including Singapore, will compete across the three divisions.

National golfers Sarah Tan, 18, and 17-year-olds Callista Chen and Jacqueline Young will lead the local charge in the Open Division.

Among the leading contenders are Western Australia's No. 1 junior Kathryn Norris, Indonesia's top-ranked amateur Inez Beatrice Wanamarta and United States college players Isabella Leung of Hong Kong and Malaysian Loy Hee Ying.

Despite the stiff competition, +2 handicapper Callista remained confident of her chances thanks to her familiarity with Keppel.

The Singapore Sports School student said: "I've played there every week since I was 12 so there's some home-course advantage. I know the course very well and have the confidence to hit some shots that others might be unwilling to try."

Though narrow, the par-72 layout at Keppel measures just 5,917m and offers plenty of birdie opportunities, particularly for a long driver like Callista, who averages 220m to 230m off the tee.

She added: "Hitting it far is one of my strengths and I can reach all the par-fives in two... It's a course that allows me to be aggressive."

The SLGA event has been a springboard for a number of the region's rising talents. Australian Minjee Lee won the tournament in 2011 and turned pro in 2014. She is now ranked 12th in the world.

Malaysian Kelly Tan played in several editions and now plies her trade on the US-based LPGA Tour.

Said SLGA president Lyn Sen: "We have a stellar field this year and I hope golfing fans will venture to Keppel Club and perhaps catch the next rising star of the LPGA."

The Republic has won the past two stagings (Koh Sock Hwee in 2014 and Jen Goh last year) and Sarah is hoping to keep that run going.

The Raffles Institution student and scratch handicapper has stepped up her practice sessions over the last six weeks in preparation for the SLGA competition.

She said: "It's rare that we get such a strong field in Singapore and this is good exposure for us to improve our game. Plus it's home ground so we all want to do well in front of our friends and family.

"This will be one of my last tournaments of the year as I have to study for my A levels so hopefully I can do well."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 22, 2016, with the headline 'Strong foreign field for SLGA open'. Print Edition | Subscribe