Putting golf before school

Putting golf before school

Quitting school early is risky, but one student felt he had to so that he could achieve his Olympic dream

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Konstantin Liu has been playing golf since he was seven years old.
Konstantin Liu has been playing golf since he was seven years old.
Photo: Dickson Lee/SCMP
Konstantin Liu Lok-tin had a tough decision to make last year. The promising golfer had a choice: stay in school, take the HKDSE and see his sporting skills suffer; or drop out of school early, become a professional golfer and hope that his career would blossom.

In the end, 19-year-old Liu took the bold decision to quit his studies and go pro, motivated by one factor in particular: the prospect of competing at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Liu has been playing golf since he was seven years old. Four years ago, he played at the 42nd International Children's Games in San Francisco, in the US. In the boys' golf event, he won a silver medal for Hong Kong. "The atmosphere of multi-sport games is so great," Liu says. "I relished capturing a medal at the Children's Games. I really wanted to join an even larger-scale event."

His big break came in 2010 when he played for Hong Kong at the Asian Games in Guangzhou. Liu became the top amateur player in Hong Kong and was awarded the Junior Order of Merit prize by the Hong Kong Golf Association.

That season, he became the first local player to win the Hong Kong Close Amateur Championship and the Hong Kong Open Amateur Championship in the same year.

That helped him qualify for the Hong Kong Open, but unfortunately it clashed with the Asian Games, so Liu opted to play in the latter.

Before he started Form Six at Elegantia College in Sheung Shui last year, Liu had to make a decision over his future. "I really wanted to make golf my lifetime career," says Liu. "Taking the HKDSE exam would have forced me to take a break from golf of at least 3 to 4 months. It was inevitable that the break would have had a very damaging effect on my performance.

"Also, with the introduction of golf at the next Olympics, I needed to constantly improve in order to get a spot at the 2016 Games. Last year was the right time to start my preparation, so I chose to leave school."

The player is now managed by Paco Wong, a top entertainment agent, allowing him to travel to Europe to be trained by leading golf coaches.

As a professional, Liu has not yet achieved success in the competitive senior tournaments, and while he feels the pressure to win, he has high hopes.

Liu plans to be based on the mainland and concentrate on East Asian tournaments to gain experience, with his ultimate goal to play in the European Tour and the US PGA Tour.

But before that, he has another mission - to qualify for the Hong Kong Open. Liu knows it will be tough, having missed the 2010 tournament, but he is confident he will be able to hold his own during the qualifiers and prove that his fateful decision to leave school was a gamble that is paying off.

You can follow the latest news about Liu on his Facebook page.

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