Western Australia’s Whitney Hillier lived up to her top billing as she usurped defending champion and hot favourite Kelly Tan Guat Chen to clinch the 29th Malaysian Ladies Amateur Open in dramatic fashion.
The 21-year-old National Squad member from Joondalup Country Club in Perth was the top-ranked player in the field at 15th on the World Amateur Golf Rankings. She bounced back from a poor second round, 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.
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.
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 carded 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.
Leading final round scores (Division 1 only)
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
Details provided by the Malaysian Golf Association