S’wak has no problem hosting MAO annually

with Karim (centre) signs the tournament poster in a symbolic gesture when launching the event yesterday as (from left) Hoon, Anwar from MGA, Snowdan and Hii look on. Photo: Evelyn Stephen

KUCHING: Sarawak is willing to become the permanent home of the prestigious Malaysian Amateur Open (MAO) golf tournament.

The Sarawak government made the offer to the Malaysian Golf Association (MGA) delegation and members of Kelab Golf Sarawak (KGS), which is also the venue for the 117th Malaysian Amateur Open this year.

“The Sarawak government is very happy to host the event again after doing it in 2017 (the 115th edition) and we are ready to be the hosts for this event every year. No problem,” said Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

He chaired a joint press conference held by his ministry, the MGA and KGS at Wisma Masja here yesterday, adding: “Sarawak wishes to be a powerhouse in sports and this blue ribbon event is just the kind of event we see high value in because what comes with it is exposure for our homegrown young athletes to an international and prestigious event.”

“I know the amateur golfing community in Sarawak is looking forward to this tournament and having it here lessens their cost of traveling and the home advantage will help them pull off a great effort and maybe we can see a local champion coming out of it.”

Incidentally, the event was accorded to Kuching because of the MGA’s policy to rotate the venue for the event around the country as reported by its president Tan Sri Datuk Setia Anwar Mohd Nor during his briefing on the event.

The event will feature 140 male golfers from up to 30 nations, and Malaysia’s top amateur golfer Gavin Kyle Green, who won this event in 2012, will be hoping he can repeat his past success here.

The 117th edition will also be hosting the 4th edition of the women’s category with up to 50 amateur golfers expected to participate. Sarawak’s very own 12-year-old prodigy Mirabel Ting Ern Hui is expected to compete as well, along with other Sukma and SEA Games hopefuls from Sarawak.

“We will be looking to ensure all our golfers get a chance here and that may mean bringing back some of our athletes already outside on their training tour.

“The idea is to use this event to hone their skills for other events such as the Olympics. We hope Sarawak will contribute Olympic-level golfers for Malaysia one day,” explained the minister.

Karim went on to elaborate that apart from the Olympics, Sarawak amateur golfers would also have the opportunity to represent the country in the Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) and Sarawak in the Sukma Games.

“We will certainly be enlisting all our Sukma hopefuls in the tournament and other local golfers that feel they have what it takes will certainly join up so we may see new local talents being discovered as well.”

“As hosts, we will do our best to help the association wherever and however they may need, such as creating a ‘fast lane’ immigration counter or utilising the VIP lounges at Kuching International Airport for certain VVIPs or dignitaries that may be coming along,” said Abdul Karim.

Sarawak is determined to make the event a memorable one, and the minister ensured that all invited guests would feel the Sarawakian hospitality, with the knowledge that the international guests would share their experiences with friends, relatives and supporters back home via social media.

“They will inadvertently be promoting Sarawak with positive vibes all the way and while here, they are spending on lodging, transport, food, shopping and leisure activities, so this spurs the local economy as well,” said Karim.

The Malaysian Amateur Open will take place from June 18-23 and so far, 18 nations from the Asia-Pacific region have confirmed their participation from the expected 30 worldwide. Also present at the press conference was Youth and Sports Assistant Minister Datuk Snowdan Lawan, Ministry permanent secretary Hii Chang Kee and Sarawak Sports Corporation CEO Dr Ong Kong Swee.