Tiffany Chan Tsz-ching is hopeful of qualifying for the Summer Olympics after staging a remarkable comeback to win the Hong Kong Ladies Open at Fanling on Sunday.
In a dramatic finish, the 22-year-old amateur from Tuen Mun held her nerve to defeat Thailand’s Kanphanitnan Muangkhumsakul on the first play-off hole of the “sudden death” duel. Earlier, the pair had tied at five-under 211 through three rounds of regulation play over the Old Course at Hong Kong Golf Club.
Chan, who had holed a 12-foot birdie putt on the final green to force the play-off, made a solid par after her opponent drove out of bounds to claim her second victory in a professional event – and boost her hopes of qualifying for the elite 60-woman field at the Olympics Games this summer.
“I’m so emotional and I can’t express how happy I am right now,” said the University of Southern California student, who is expected to move into the top 10 of the world amateur rankings. “I’m so thankful for the support I’ve had. To win on my home course makes it all the more special. Without the support I’ve had today I don’t think I could have done it.”
Chan, who trailed overnight leader Pan Yen-ling, of Taiwan, by two strokes, looked to have blown her chances after failing to convert birdie opportunities at the 16th and 17th holes. But her last-gasp putt at the 18th gave her the momentum – and the belief – she needed heading into the play-off.
“I wasn’t putting the way I wanted,” said Chan, who had Hong Kong international Steven Lam caddying for her throughout the week. “I missed a few short putts during the round but on the 18th I knew I had to make it.
“I only had one chance and I put 200 per cent effort into it. Steven kept telling me I had to make it. I said the same to myself. I’m just so glad it went in. It was the best putt I’ve ever made.”
As an amateur, Chan wasn’t allowed to take the winner’s share of the US$150,000 prize purse, which went to Muangkhumsakul, but the ranking points she earned put her on course for a place in Rio. To aid her cause before the Olympic field is set on July 11, the former World University champion will play in this week’s Korea Women’s Open Championship in Incheon.
“The standings for the Olympics are always fluctuating, so I probably won’t know if I can qualify until much later,” said Chan, who joined the Hong Kong Golf Club earlier this year. “But winning here has helped a lot.”