Kuala Lumpur native and Symetra Tour professional Jean Chua (@Jeanchuagolf) will be competing this week in the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia for the third-consecutive year. Chua sat down with local media on Wednesday and talked about playing at home, having more confidence in her third year and that state of Malaysian women’s golf. She is one of four Malaysian players in the field this week and is by far the most experienced. The second-year pro finished 15th on the Symetra Tour season-ending money list and earned a spot in the final stage of LPGA Qualifying held in November.
THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Jean Chua into the interview room. Thanks for joining us. Welcome home. This is your third year playing in this event. Just talk about what it means to come back and the idea of playing in front of your home crowd. Obviously it must be an awfully nice week for you.
JEAN CHUA: Coming home definitely means a lot to me. It's my third year, but still, it's never the same playing in front of my country, my family, my friends. It's amazing, and I've been away all year. I had a great year, so I'm actually ready to come home and play this week.
THE MODERATOR: Talk about playing in this event the past two years, being one of the younger players, one of the Malaysian players, having a lot of that pressure. You've played two years on the Symetra Tour. Talk about the experience of being a pro and coming into this event this year instead of the past two years.
JEAN CHUA: It's definitely a big difference. Playing with the top 60 in the world, the level is unbelievable. It's competitive. Being one of the younger ones and representing Malaysia, you do definitely have a lot of pressure. People expect you to perform well. But you've really got to try to just focus and play your own game. Just go out there and do what I've been doing all year. I should be fine, actually.
THE MODERATOR: And talking about your season on the Symetra Tour, solid year, finished 15th on the Money List, four top 10s, a lot of very, very solid performances. Talk about your season this year and kind of what you hope to work off of that coming into this event this week.
JEAN CHUA: I started off the year pretty strong. Like Meghan said, I had a great year. It was my first full year on Symetra. I only played half last year, partial, and had a great year, great experience. Was top 10 most of the year, had a disappointing finish, but still, all my stats and everything has improved. So I had a really good year, and I'm really glad where I finished. I've still got a full exempt into final stage so I can get a second try for Q-school there. Still not giving up, so I am going to try again.
But the experience is just great.
THE MODERATOR: Speak about Sime Darby's support for young Malaysian players. They talked about the developmental program that they set up here and obviously having this event here, trying to give as many opportunities to young Malaysian players. How important is that and how do you see that playing a role in developing Malaysian women's golf?
JEAN CHUA: Personally I'm on the Sime Darby Foundation. They take a couple athletes in different sports and they help them. They help them chase their dreams and fulfill their dreams, and especially with the Sime Darby development with golf, they start this whole program at MST Golf and they bring in instructors, they bring in Ian Triggs. The number of juniors, even the first time when I came back, my dad -- that was the first thing he said to me. He said, the number of juniors that are coming up and playing golf here is amazing now. So hopefully we can have two girls and two boys in the Olympics in 2016.
Q. Having played the last two years, do you think your expectations this year will be higher?
JEAN CHUA: It's interesting, the last two years, it's a different story every time. The first year I came back, had no idea who I'm playing with, had no idea, just came back and just played my game, had a solid tournament. Coming into the last hole I guess nerves got to me a little bit, and my score looking I'm coming in top 15 for the tournament, my first LPGA, and had a little bit of a mistake on the last 18 holes. That was something I probably won't ever forget. Trying to forget, but won't forget.
I think the second year I focused a lot more on playing for the people. I think I tried too hard to measure up to how I did the previous year and tried to play the same game instead of just doing what I try to -- playing my golf. I was trying to play more for the people. So I think this year I would have to focus more on just playing my game, not trying to compete with the girls or try to measure up, the length or the shots, just do what I can do and score well and do just how I did this year.
Q. How important is this event on your calendar? Is it sort of the highlight of the year?
JEAN CHUA: This event is always the highlight. Even though Symetra is my main career and takes me further, this is always the highlight because I get to come home, play in front of my family. It's my biggest event for the year, and it's a great honor to be able to play in front of my parents and have them watch what I do.
Q. Being the most experienced Malaysian player in the field, do you feel there's a bit of onus on you to go out and guide the younger players in golf this year?
JEAN CHUA: I would try to help them as much as I can. But I think they too have their coaches out there helping them. Being the most experienced, if they actually come to help -- come to ask for help, I would definitely extend it. For example, Aretha, I help her -- got her in contact with Ping, and now she's being helped by Ping and she has a full club sponsor with them. So it's good for her.
I would try to help them as much as I can. But also you have to let them play their game, too.
Q. What advice would you have for them this week?
JEAN CHUA: The advice I would give them is probably the same advice I give myself: Try not to compete with the girls, try not to hit the shots that they hit or the length that they hit; just focus on what you can do and play your game. If you hit a driver-hybrid and Michelle Wie hits a driver-wedge, just do what you can do and work on your game.
Q. Have you had a look at the golf course?
JEAN CHUA: I did. The golf course looked amazing. It's great. Robert Bird did a great job. The course, the committees, they did a great job. The course looks beautiful. All the players, they always come here and say they love the course. Landscape is amazing.