Hong Kong: Local amateur Tiffany Chan Tsz-ching will take her place alongside the best players in the game having pulled off the greatest achievement in the history of Hong Kong golf by qualifying for the Rio Olympics.
The 22-year-old Chan is one of only three amateur golfers expected to feature in the Summer Games. She finished in 56th place in the Olympic rankings, with the top 60-ranked players earning their places in the elite field.
The women’s golf event will take place on the Olympic course in Barra da Tijuca on the outskirts of the host city from August 17-20 and will be contested over four rounds of stroke play.
This year marks golf’s inclusion in the Summer Games for the first time since 1904, and Hong Kong-born Chan, a product of the Hong Kong Golf Association’s (HKGA) junior development programme, said representing Hong Kong on the biggest sporting stage of all filled her with equal measures of pride and confidence.
“Making it to the Olympics is a potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I couldn’t be happier in the knowledge that I’m going to be an Olympic athlete, playing golf for Hong Kong against the world’s greatest players in front of a huge global audience,” said the Hong Kong Golf Association National Squad star.
Chan started out in the game as a six-year-old at the Tuen Mun Golf Centre, a public driving range operated by the Hong Kong SAR Government’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department, and her Road to Rio has been nothing short of remarkable.
As an amateur who lacks status on any of the major women’s circuits, the former Diocesan Girls’ School student has only been able to accrue Olympic ranking points from professional events she has received invitations to play in.
Despite this distinct disadvantage, which meant she played significantly fewer ranking tournaments than the majority of her Olympic rivals, Chan shot into the reckoning for Rio after two special weeks in June.
Soon after being awarded All-American honours following a successful first season playing college golf for the University of Southern California, Chan earned a share of fourth place at the China LPGA Tour’s Zhangjiagang Shuangshan Challenge in Jiangsu Province.
Buoyed by that performance, Chan returned home for the second edition of the Hong Kong Ladies Open, a US$150,000 tournament co-sanctioned by the LPGA of Taiwan (TLPGA) and the Ladies Asian Golf Tour (LAGT), which was staged on the Old Course at Fanling’s Hong Kong Golf Club, a Golf Facility Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation.
Excelling in the familiar surroundings of her home course, Chan thrilled the local galleries by defeating Thailand’s Kanphanitnan Muangkhumsakul on the first hole of a sudden-death play-off.
While it was Kanphanitnan, a professional, who took the prize money, it was the Hong Kong player who earned the all-important winner’s ranking points, which were enough to push her into the top-60 of the Olympic standings for the first time. It was a position she would not relinquish.
“Qualifying for Rio is a huge personal achievement for me, but it’s also an achievement for golf in Hong Kong,” said Chan, who is 15th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. “The support I’ve received from the Hong Kong Golf Association, in addition to all the clubs and other golf facilities in Hong Kong has been simply amazing and I can’t thank them enough for helping me to reach this stage. My goal is to represent Hong Kong to the very best of my ability.”
Mark Chan, President of the HKGA, said: “Make no mistake: Hong Kong has a rich and proud golfing heritage. Golf has been played in Hong Kong since 1879 and the UBS Hong Kong Open, our flagship championship, is Hong Kong’s oldest professional sporting event.
“But even so, for Tiffany to qualify for Rio, on the occasion of the game’s return to the Olympics after more than a century’s absence, makes this the greatest day in Hong Kong golfing history.
“Tiffany is a highly gifted individual and I’m delighted for her because she is also a wonderful person, one that we at the Hong Kong Golf Association have known since she first took up the game. She will undoubtedly inspire the next generation of Hong Kong juniors who will look to follow in her footsteps. Her future, like that of Hong Kong golf itself, is very bright.”
Kenneth Lam, Captain of the Hong Kong Golf Club, said: “Tiffany is one of the best players ever produced by the HKGA’s junior and international development programme and we’re proud to call her a member of our club. There are only four private clubs and three public courses, at The Jockey Club Kau Sai Chau, in Hong Kong but together we always work closely with the HKGA to promote the game of golf in our city.
“I don’t mind admitting that we all had tears in our eyes when Tiffany won our own national Open at Fanling a month ago. We knew how significant that win was and it is highly gratifying to know that she is now going to Rio.”
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