"Mamat, Chia and Moir Qualify for the Open Championship"

Fri 08 Apr 2005

"Mamat, Chia and Moir Qualify for the Open Championship"

Kuala Lumpur, April 7: Danny Chia wrote a slice of golfing history by becoming the first Malaysian to qualify for The Open Championship at the International Final Qualifying – Asia on Thursday.

Singapore's Mardan Mamat, who won medallist honours at Saujana Golf and Country Club, and Australian Richard Moir grabbed the other two tickets to the world's oldest Major which will be played at the Old Course of St Andrews in July.

Mamat, the co-overnight leader after a 66 yesterday, carded a second round one-under-par 71 to top the qualifiers on seven-under-par 137 and earned his second appearance at The Open. Later, Chia and Moir produced heroics of their own to earn their Major debuts on five-under-par 139.

First, Moir birdied the 17th and then chipped in from 40 feet for an eagle at the last hole for a 68 while Chia, playing in the last group, birdied his last two holes for an even par 72 to avoid a play-off with Chinese Taipei's Yeh Wei-tze and Australian Jason Dawes, who finished tied fourth.

A teary-eyed Chia said: "I don't know how to describe what I'm feeling now. I'm just so happy, I'm just speechless."

A bogey on the 14th dropped him to three-under for the qualifiers and with Yeh and Dawes safely in the club-house on that mark, a play-off loomed for the last ticket. But the 32-year-old Malaysian, who won the 2002 Taiwan Open on the Asian Tour, pulled off some great shots under pressure, sending a wedge to a foot on 17 and then setting up a six-foot birdie at the par five last.

"I knew it was going to be close and after my bogey on 14, I told myself to stay calm. It was such a big relief to see my putt go in at the last. It shows that if you try your hardest, you can achieve anything.

"My dream has always been to play in the Masters but to get into my first Major, it's a dream come true. I've always watched the Majors on TV, so it'll be nice to actually play in one, especially at St Andrews."

The 37-year-old Mamat, who featured in the Open at Royal Troon in 1997, didn't have the best of starts, dropping an early bogey on the fifth with a three-putt. But he kept his composure on the back nine, shooting three birdies against another dropped shot to earn his ticket to St Andrews, the home of golf.

"I was getting frustrated on the front nine as I was hitting the ball well but not converting the putts. I missed putts of six feet on the third and fourth holes and then three putted the fifth. But I kept reminding myself to not lose sight of St Andrews," said Mamat, who enjoyed his career best season on the Asian Tour last year by finishing 12th on the Order of Merit.

"It's nice to get into the Open again. When I arrived for the qualifiers, I told myself that I've done it before and that I could do it again. This gives me a lot of satisfaction and patience was the key this week. I just took it one shot at a time."

Moir, playing on his second year on the Asian Tour, was delighted to complete his back nine in 31 after turning in one over. "Standing on 16, I knew I had to birdie home and then I missed an eight footer for birdie. Holed an 18-footer on 17 for birdie and then went for it on the last. I was on the green edge in two and had a terrible lie. But my sandwedge came out nicely and it went in. It's just feels fantastic to qualify."

Second round scores

137: Mardan Mamat (Sin) 66-71

139: Richard Moir (Aus) 71-68, Danny Chia (Mas) 67-72

(Top three players qualify for the British Open)

141: Yeh Wei-tze (Tpe) 68-73, Jason Dawes (Aus) 70-71

142: Lee Sung-man (Kor) 76-66

143: Amandeep Johl (Ind) 73-70

144: Terry Pilkadaris (Aus) 75-69, Bryan Saltus (USA) 70-74, Jeev Milkha Singh (Ind) 71-73, Peter Teravainen (USA) 73-71, Unho Park (Aus) 74-70

145: Greg Hanrahan (USA) 74-71, Yoshinobu Tsukada (Jpn) 75-70

146: Sushi Ishigaki (Jpn) 74-72

147: Scott Barr (Aus) 71-76, Ross Bain (Sco) 76-71, Rahil Gangjee (Ind) 73-74, Marcus Both (Aus) 76-71

149: Angelo Que (Phi) 77-72

150: Zaw Moe (Myn) 75-75, Kim Felton (Aus) 73-77, Soushi Tajima (Ind) 71-70

152: Akinori Tani (Jpn) 74-78

153: David Gleeson (Aus) 80-73

158: Kyi Hla Han (Myn) 81-77, Pat Giles (Aus) 77-81

WD: Jyoti Randhawa (Ind) 74, Adam Fraser (Aus) 75,

DQ: Simon Yates (Sco) 73, Rick Gibson (Can) 66