PETALING JAYA - The 37th edition of the Malaysian Open bowling championships at the Sunway Mega Lanes in Sunway Pyramid seems quieter than previous editions.
In the past, a selection of stars from the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) would grace the venue to make it one of the most attractive events in South-East Asia. This year, only reigning PBA World Championship winner Dominic Barrett is present.
"I have to admit that it is a bit quieter this year," said national bowler Adrian Ang, the winner in 2010.
However, organisers Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress (MTBC) managed to pull in the national teams from Singapore, Taiwan, China, the Philippines and India to fill the void.
Most of the teams have brought their top bowlers with the hope of sharpening their game ahead of the Incheon Asian Games in September.
"While it is true that we didn't get many professional bowlers this time, we have a strong representation from national teams," said MTBC secretary-general Cheah Ban Cheng.
In the absence of the South Koreans, Singapore poses the biggest threat in the championships. Cherie Tan is currently leading the overseas women's qualifier list on 1,484 pins (six games) while defending champion Shayna Ng looks strong to lift the trophy again with a 1,419 score in second place.
In the local pool, national back-up bowler Victoria Chin is still leading the charge with a 1,399 total, followed closely by team-mate Hee Kar Yen on the same score.
The 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games gold medallist Alex Liew shot up to lead the local qualifiers in the men's competition with a 1,493 total, pushing down previous leader Mohd Rafiq Ismail with 1,463 to third.
National back-up bowler Muhd Nur Aiman Khairuddin looks to be knocking hard on coach Holloway Cheah's door for a spot in the Asiad team as he sits in second spot on a 1,468 total.
A total of 33 qualifiers including men's defending champion Syimir Abdul Razak will play eight games in the first round of Masters on Friday. Meanwhile, in the women's competition, only 27 qualifiers including the defending champion will play eight games in the first round on the same day.