Singapore: Nine months after suffering a crushing sudden-death play-off defeat, Callista Chen experienced the joy of extra-time success in the 12th Faldo Series Singapore Championship.
In February, Chen was beaten in a play-off at the HSBC Women’s Champions National Qualifying Tournament at Sentosa Golf Club. Riddled with nerves, she drove out of bounds and missed out on a coveted place among the game’s elite female professionals in the LPGA Tour event.
Displaying a new-found mental toughness this week, 19-year-old Chen made amends for that disappointment with a tense triumph at the first extra hole of a play-off at Raffles Country Club to take top honours in her debut Faldo Series appearance.
“I kept my cool and felt I was mentally calm,” said Chen, who rolled home a two-footer for par at the opening hole on Raffles’ Palm Course to edge out Emerson Boon in the 10th leg of the 2017-18 Faldo Series Asia season.
Watched by Singapore Golf Association President Ross Tan, Chen was involved in a thrilling last-day battle with flight mates Nathen Tan En Quan and Boon, the second-round leader.
Going to the final hole, Boon, who took the lead with a blistering opening 67, was one shot in front of both Chen and Tan.
While Chen struck two confident shots into the heart of the green, Tan pushed his approach into water while Boon left himself a treacherous downhill left-to-right putt from the fringe.
Tan could do no better than a double-bogey six for an even-par 72 and a three-day aggregate of 218 while Boon had to settle for a closing bogey-five and a round of 75.
His total of even-par 216 was matched by Chen, who two-putted for a regulation par and a round of 72.
“My thanks to Nathen and Emerson for a tough fight. They kept me on my toes all day,” said Chen, who struck two mighty blows onto the green at the par-five first hole in the play-off. Meanwhile, Boon, through the green in two, raced his chip past the hole and then saw his par attempt roll three feet by.
When that effort also failed to drop, Chen was able to tap-in for the win, despite a three-putt of her own.
Victory completed a memorable year for Singapore Sports School student Chen, who flew the flag for Singapore at the Queen Sirikit Cup and Southeast Asian Games.
Now, she will go on to represent Singapore in the 12th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final, to be hosted by Sir Nick Faldo at Laguna Lăng Cô in Danang, Central Vietnam, in March, 2018.
As Boys’ Under-16 winner, Boon will also make the trip along with Shannon Tan, who topped the standings in the Girls’ Under-16 category.
There was disappointment for past Faldo Series Singapore Championship winner Jacqueline Young who finished fifth overall on 225 and fellow Elite Women’s Squad member Erika Layson, who was forced to withdraw on the eve of the tournament due to a recurring hand injury.
The 2017-18 Faldo Series Asia season is supported by The R&A and endorsed by the Asian Tour and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation. The International Junior Golf Academy is a partner of the Faldo Series.
As well as two events in China, India and Thailand, championships are being staged in Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Chinese-Taipei, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.