Talented 21-year-old Chan hoping to prosper over the historic Old Course at The Hong Kong Golf Club.
Amateur Tiffany Chan Tsz-ching is looking to put her Queen Sirikit Cup disappointment behind her with a strong performance against the professionals at next week’s inaugural Hong Kong Ladies Open.
Chan was an integral part of the Hong Kong team that finished in sixth place at the Queen Sirikit Cup earlier this month and returns to The Hong Kong Golf Club, the venue for both events, with a point to prove.
Although the team’s result was their best since 1991, Hong Kong failed to capitalise on a fine start, which saw them leading the Asia-Pacific tournament after the first round.
“It was disappointing to finish the way we did after the start we had – I didn’t play as well as I would have liked over the closing two rounds – but I’m really looking forward to the Hong Kong Ladies Open and have been practicing a lot,” said Chan, who entered the top 10 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking late last year after a great season of junior college golf in the United States.
Twenty-one-year-old Chan, who is a product of the Hong Kong Golf Association’s junior development programme, believes that her knowledge of the Old Course at Fanling should give her an advantage over her playing competitors at the US$120,000 event, which is sanctioned by the LPGA of Taiwan and co-sanctioned by the Ladies Asian Golf Tour.
“The Old Course is the course I grew up playing and I think I’m well prepared. The Hong Kong Golf Club has helped me a lot over the years – they have given me so many opportunities – and I really appreciate what they’ve done for me, so I want to play well in order to thank them,” added Chan.
Chan, who is heading to the University of Southern California, the top-ranking golf school in the States, in August, has set lofty goals ahead of the tournament but is under no illusions about the challenge she faces.
“It’s a big tournament and a lot of top professionals are coming,” said Chan, who claimed the biggest win of her career to date at the World University Championship in Switzerland last summer. “But I’m aiming for a top 10. If I can really play well and squeeze into the top five that would be awesome.”
Chan’s main challengers for the title are likely to be South African Connie Chen, a Ladies European Tour regular who collected her first tour title in Tenerife last year; Chinese Taipei sensation Cheng Ssu-chia, who won on her Ladies European Tour debut at November’s Xiamen Open at the tender age of 17 and is currently leading the Taiwan LPGA money list; and Sharmila Nicollet, the glamorous Indian player who divides her playing time between Asia and Europe.
Including Chan, there will be 14 local competitors, but none has a stronger affiliation to The Hong Kong Golf Club and the Old Course than Joann Hardwick. The 49-year-old, who has worked as a teaching professional at the club’s Fanling and Deep Water Bay sites for the last two decades, spent her formative years living at Fanling, where her father, Joe, spent 30 years as head professional.
Hardwick, who enjoyed success in her 20s competing on the Asian women’s circuit, hasn’t played a tournament for seven years. But the lure of the Old Course meant she wasn’t going to miss out on the opportunity to get her competitive juices flowing once again.
“I felt it’s important to participate because I grew up on the Old Course and it’s a good way to celebrate my 20 years of working for the club,” said Hardwick, who will have Hong Kong Golf Club ladies’ champion Felicia Louey caddying for her during the tournament. “The course was my back yard – I used to run around on the first green as a child. It’s just a really natural setting, with a wonderful variety of trees and wildlife. I have very fond memories of playing golf with my Dad in the afternoons. It’s a very special place to me.”
Hardwick has spent the last two months getting her game in shape for the week and believes the Old Course will present a test of endurance.
“With the weather we’ve had it’s going to play quite long and the heat and humidity will be a factor,” said Hardwick. “I’ve been focusing on my short game and if I can get that going then we’ll see – top 20 would be a good result.
“I have missed the competitive side of golf and so I’m really looking forward to getting the tournament underway.”