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Rookie pro Khai Jei gets surprise invite to Maybank Championship

PETALING JAYA: Rookie professional Low Khai Jei plans to make the most of his chance after earning a surprise start in next month’s inaugural Maybank Championship Malaysia (MCM) golf tournament.

The 19-year-old is among the six up-and-coming golfers to receive a sponsor’s invite to play in the US$3mil (RM12.49mil) event at the Royal Selangor Golf Club (RSGC) in Kuala Lumpur from Feb 18-21.

The others are Indonesian George Gandranata, Koh Deng Shan of Singapore, Vietnam’s Michael Tran, Myanmar’s Zaw Zaw Latt and South African Thriston Lawrence.

The invitation, which was announced on Friday, came as a pleasant surprise for Khai Jei.

He had earned a berth as Malaysia’s best-ranked ranked amateur at No. 180 in the world. But in a surprise move, he decided to turn professional early last month and lost his starting berth.

“I want to thank Maybank and GlobalOne (the promoter) for this great chance,” said Khai Jei.

“I never thought I would be a part of the inaugural MCM following my decision to turn pro.”

Khai Jei now plans to give a good account of himself to earn more starting places on the Asian Tour.

He failed to earn his Asian Tour card in the Qualifying School in Thailand three weeks ago. But by completing the 72 holes in the Final Stage, he can still qualify for some of the lower-ranked Tour events.

“I would not have turned pro if I didn’t make the cut in the Final Stage at the Q-School,” said Khai Jei.

“It turned out to be a good move now. With an MCM start, it could help me to improve my Asian Tour status as the money I make will be counted towards the Order of Merit.

“So, I’ll need to put up a good show at the RSGC. I’ll be very happy if I can finish inside the top 40.”

To date, Khai Jei has made two appearances as a pro at the Asian Development Tour (ADT).

He missed the cut at the Players Championship in Singapore, but managed to finish joint 53rd at the just-concluded PGM CCM Rahman Putra Championship, where he collected his first-ever prize money of RM880