Leon D’Souza manages to find the perfect balance of the calm and tension on the golf course.
“The mental aspect of golf is just as important as the physical,” said the 19-year-old. “It’s interesting, because you can’t be overhyped, but you can’t be too relaxed because you have to stay completely focused at all times. The answer is somewhere right in the middle.
“Some people think golf is a relaxing sport. Sure, when the weather is good and there’s no pressure, it’s very relaxing. But when you’ve got thousands of people following you, and a million dollars on the line, it gets really intense and mentally draining,” Leon adds.
The former Renaissance College student has been studying for an online diploma at an American high school for the past three years so that he could focus on his golf.
“The IB takes a lot of time, and I would always have to take time off school to play in tournaments, so it didn’t make sense [to stay in school].”
Now one of Hong Kong’s top golf prospects, Leon will continue his education at the University of Nevada in the US, where he will study on an athletic scholarship.
“I’m excited to go to the US and take my game to the next level; the courses are really good there, as are the training facilities,” he said.
Leon, whose father is Portuguese and mother Filipino, was born and raised in Hong Kong. He became the youngest local player to make the cut at the UBS Hong Kong Open last month, which he considers the proudest accomplishment in his career so far.
“It was amazing, to do that in Hong Kong in front of so many fans, with hundreds of people cheering me on, yeah, it was unbelievable.”
Leon has been playing golf since he was just three years old. “It all started off with a little plastic club, just giving the ball a whack,” he recalled.
It didn’t take him long before he realised he was in love with the game.
“I’m quite competitive so it’s really fun for me to play with the guys [his Hong Kong teammates], even if we aren’t playing for anything, I love to win and I love improving,” Leon said. “Not to mention being outdoors and being active, it’s just a lot of fun.”
He also loves how the game challenges him mentally. “Golf is so difficult. You can be playing well and then suddenly start struggling and have no idea why. One bad hole and that’s it, you’re out of the tournament. So you have to stay consistent, mentally focused and if you start playing poorly, you have to pick yourself right back up. It’s challenging, but it makes you mentally strong.”
Leon has his sights set on becoming the first Hongkonger to make the PGA tour.
“It’s the most well-known of the tournaments and it’s got the best money. Obviously if my game is not up to standard by then, I will consider other options, but I’m confident in my abilities.”
He advises young golfers in Hong Kong to “just enjoy the game”, but also reminds them that hard work is the key to success.
“You’ve got to decide whether or not you love the sport. If you do, you have to spend as much time on the course as possible,” said Leon. “If you enjoy it, it won’t feel like work.”