She stole the show at last year’s Open, but can she bring the trophy home again today? Hong Kong’s Olympian golfer Tiffany Chan Tsz-ching is hoping to defend her title at this year’s EFG Hong Kong Ladies Open, having stunned the world after winning last year’s Open as an amateur.
Chan turned pro two weeks ago and the pressure is on her to keep her title. “I hope to be able to relax, but stress is a given because as a professional, you have to take the sport even more seriously,” Chan told Young Post, adding that her new title as a professional golfer will not faze her attitude. “Professional or amateur, I will still try my best.”
The 23-year-old returned to the familiar Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling after an excellent tour with the University of Southern California team. Chan also graduated from the university this year, defying doubters who thought being a high-level athlete and student at the same time was an impossible feat.
Fortunately for her, the Old Course in Fanling gives Chan an advantage. She trained there regularly before her US adventure and knows the course in-and-out, as demonstrated in her emphatic win last year.
Tuen Mun native Chan began putting and driving at a nearby golf centre at the age of 12. Throughout her teens, she was a part of the Hong Kong Golf Association’s elite junior programme, catching the eye of Swiss bank EFG. They have supported her ever since, and even provided her with a university scholarship.
During university, Chan had to juggle academics and sport which, as she explains, was not easy. “I worked out at least three times a week and trained five times a week. On Saturday or Sunday, I trained on my own – so technically I had six days of training per week.”
In addition to the demanding training, Chan had to sacrifice a lot of the usual uni shenanigans; her golf team attended at least 14 tournaments a year, which meant she had to skip on some of the fun. “I didn’t have a spring break or a Thanksgiving break,” she reveals. “This is the sacrifice I made for golf.”
But they were not made in vain, as she proudly represented Hong Kong at the Rio Olympics last year, finishing a respectable 37th. It was there that she rubbed shoulders with the world’s elite female golfers. She even met her role model, Chinese golfer Shanshan Feng. She asked Feng for advice about turning professional and credits her for making the transition easier.
Since turning professional, Chan feels compelled to give back. She wants to encourage youngsters from her childhood community to give golf a go, and not avoid it simply because they think it’s for a “higher” social class. “Golf isn’t a rich man’s sport like everyone thinks,” she insists, saying she hopes to use her fame to empower youngsters and promote equal opportunities in sports.
To achieve her goal, Chan teamed up with Friends of Asia (FOA), a non-profit organisation focused on sports and well-being. “If we help more, Hong Kong’s youth will realise that everyone has equal opportunities in sports,” she explains.
FOA is working with Chan and the Open: for every birdie Chan hits during the tournament, FOA will donate HK$1,000 to InspiringHK – an organisation that promotes sports to underprivileged kids.
“With their help, I’ve had the chance to train and compete,” says aspiring long-distance runner Mak Chun-fung, 18. “Tiffany has competed at the Olympics – at such a young age, it’s amazing. I see her professionalism and determination and I want to learn from that,” he says.
Chan, who read the Young Post regularly at school, also offered advice to any aspiring young golfers: “You never know what will happen tomorrow, and specifically in golf, you never know what happens next.
“Live like there’s no tomorrow. That’s what I always say.”