In the golf event at the 2nd National Youth Games held in Shandong, China in June, Hong Kong representative Sophie Han made history for the city by clinching a bronze medal in Girls’ Group B, where she competed against golfers aged 10 to 14 from all across the mainland.
Sophie was the youngest among the top three; she finished the three-day tournament with 219 strokes, which was three-over-par (which means she took three shots more than the predetermined number of strokes needed to complete the course). While placing third at the youth games, which are held every four years, was a major breakthrough for the 12-year-old, she overall thought her performance was not up to scratch.
“It was exciting to get a bronze, but to be honest, I wasn’t happy with my score.” Sophie told Young Post in a phone interview. “After the competition, I realised I have so much to improve on.”
One way Sophie tries to raise her game is to seek advice from her father, who she looks up to as a role model in her golf career. Her father, who introduced her to the sport six years ago, not only passes on his knowledge of the sport to Sophie, but he also designs a new training plan for her after each tournament to enhance her techniques.
“My father is a really good golfer, he knows what is best for me. We play against each other all the time, and I still can’t beat him,” said Sophie, laughing.
The budding golfer now trains one day a week with a professional coach, and the rest of the week with her father at a golf course. The sport has helped them build an extraordinary father-daughter bond, a relationship that Sophie treasures dearly.
It is obvious that golf is in Sophie’s DNA, but the success of the prodigy is far from a hole-in-one. Sophie admits there have been moments when she had difficulty breaking out of a slump, which pushed her to the edge of quitting. It was not until she took a break from training and competitions that finally gave her the space to reset her mentality and be ready to tee up again.
“I remember I had lost so many games ... It was really bad,” Sophie recalled. “I had to stop playing for a month, then it was like starting all over again. I began to do better and my confidence came back.”
As one of Hong Kong’s up-and-coming players, Sophie does not get to spend time with her fellow teammates very often. The Guangzhou-based teenager was born in Hong Kong, but she moved to the mainland several years ago. The youth games in Shandong was a rare opportunity for Sophie to reunite with her fellow Hong Kong golfers. She pointed out it’s difficult to stay in touch because they use different communication platforms, but she always looks forward to seeing them in local and overseas tournaments.
“I use WeChat and they use WhatsApp, so we don’t have much contact off the course. Still, when we meet each other in competitions, we always have fun together,” said Sophie, who goes to the Meisha Academy by Haileybury, an international school in the Tianhe District in Guangzhou.
The Grade Seven student has a long way to go in her golf career, and she has just entered secondary school, but she has already set her sights on getting a scholarship to play golf at a university in the United States in five year’s time.
“My understanding of the sport is not in-depth enough, so I must train harder and join more overseas competitions to get more experience,” she said.
“But after five years, I really want to get a scholarship and represent my school in [university] tournaments.”