FENG PRIMED FOR #SIMEDARBYLPGA TITLE DEFENSE
It’s fair to say that Shanshan Feng likes TPC Kuala Lumpur. In fact, she REALLY likes TPC Kuala Lumpur. The 28-year-old from the People’s Republic of China had nothing big smiles when she remembers her 2014 and 2016 victories at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia. Throw in a pair of runner-up finishes in 2013 and 2015 and Feng has a virtual stranglehold on the tournament’s stunning silver trophy.
“The prize ceremony last year, I was like, “Can I get a membership card here?” Because I play so well here,” said Feng with her trademark loud laugh. “Every time when I lose my confidence, maybe this is where I should come back and play and try to find my confidence back.:
While Feng may have two Sime Darby victories under her belt, she’s actually not the winningest person here at TPC Kuala Lumpur. Feng’s long-time caddie, Mercer Leftwich, was on Jimin Kang’s bag in 2010 when she won the inaugural Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia. Feng and Leftwich have one of the longest running player-caddie relationships on Tour – in fact, they’re almost like an old married couple.
“The reason I’ve won is because of him,” said Feng. “I think we actually met here. This is the first tournament he started to work for me, so this tournament is very special for us. I think winning a tournament is a great way to celebrate our anniversary. So last year was our fifth anniversary, and this is our sixth.”
MY BABY – COMMISSIONER WHAN ON SIME DARBY LPGA MALAYSIA
The Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia holds a very special place in Mike Whan’s heart as the first event he signed when he became the LPGA’s commissioner in 2010. In fact, he called it his baby.
“We had a spot in the schedule called TBD, and I quickly realized that TBD meant “to be determined,” which meant the new commissioner better determine something,” said Whan of the schedule he received when he first joined the LPGA. “I was lucky enough to meet Tun Musa (Hitam, chairman of the Sime Darby Foundation) and when you meet somebody who has a similar passion than you but actually thinks bigger than you, you hug that person and you stay close and eight years later, he can’t get rid of me.”
Indeed, eight years later, the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia is one of the most popular stops on the LPGA Tour. With 45 of the Tour’s top 50 players making the trek to Kuala Lumpur, Whan pointed to those player appearances as proof positive of the tournament’s broad favor.
“When we came here in 2010, we came here as tourists. We were from out of town, we didn’t know Kuala Lumpur and we didn’t know Malaysia,” said When. “When we come back in 2017, we come back as family. I feel part of your family. You feel part of my family, and so what you might see up here is players and staff from America and Sweden and China and Malaysia, Korea, and South Africa; we have got it covered here.”
AMATEUR OON RELISHING HOMETOWN OPPORTUNITY
When asked her dream foursome, Malaysia’s own Natasha Andrea Oon had no hesitation – LPGA stars So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Jessica Korda. Perhaps a magical pairing will happen this week for the 16-year-old, who won the Sime Darby LPGA National Qualifying Tournament on Sept. 20 to earn a coveted sponsor exemption into her home county’s event.
“It’s very exciting,” said Oon, who plans to attend San Jose State University on a golf scholarship. “I’m a bit nervous, also, and you know, these are the top players and I’m so excited to play among them because they are so good and they have done so much. I hope to learn from them.”
While Oon may be starstruck while sitting among such elite players, this is not her first time walking an LPGA fairway, having finished 74th at this event in 2016. She also enjoyed a breakout summer of 2017 on the amateur schedule, reaching the second round of the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship and winning two Malaysian amateur titles.
Nine players in the field have played in all seven previous Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia events – Shanshan Feng (winner in 2014 and 2016), Sandra Gal (best finish, T6 in 2013), Eun-Hee Ji (best finish, T15 in 2015), Candie Kung (best finish, T9 in 2012), Stacy Lewis (best finish, T2 in 2015), Azahara Munoz (best finish, third in 2011), Anna Nordqvist (best finish, T3 in 2016), Suzann Pettersen (best finish, runner-up in 2016) and Amy Yang (best finish, T3 in 2016)
The top Malaysian player in the field is World No. 328 Kelly Tan; the 2016 Olympian has 19 LPGA starts in 2017, with a best finish of T24 at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open
“I love the curry puff here. Every time I come here, I always try to find a curry puff.”
- So Yeon Ryu, on her favorite Malaysian delicacy
“I just want to enjoy the whole week and wish the other girls would give me a chance this week.”
- Shanshan Feng