Tiffany Chan held her nerve to pull off the greatest result in the history of Hong Kong women’s golf by winning the Hong Kong Ladies Open in dramatic fashion at Fanling on Sunday.
The 22-year-old amateur from Tuen Mun, who joined the Hong Kong Golf Club earlier this year, staged a remarkable comeback to defeat Thailand’s Kanphanitnan Muangkhumsakul on the first play-off hole after the pair had tied at five-under 211 through three rounds of regulation play over the Old Course.
Chan, who had earlier holed a 12ft birdie putt on the final green to force sudden death, made a solid par after her opponent drove out of bounds to claim her second victory in a professional event – and boost her hopes of qualifying for the elite 60-woman field at the Olympics Games this summer.
“I’m so emotional and I can’t express how happy I am right now,” said the University of Southern California student, who is expected to move into the top-10 of the world amateur rankings. “I’m so thankful for the support I’ve had. To win on my home course makes it all the more special. Without the support I’ve had today I don’t think I could have done it.”
Chan, who trailed overnight leader Pan Yen-ling of Chinese Taipei by two strokes, looked to have blown her chances after failing to convert birdie opportunities at both the 16th and 17th holes. But her last-gasp putt at the 18th, which was met with a thunderous roar from the large number of spectators who had gathered greenside, gave her the momentum – and the belief – she needed heading into the play-off.
“I wasn’t putting the way I wanted,” said Chan, who had Hong Kong international Steven Lam caddying for her throughout the week. “I missed a few short putts during the round but on the 18th I knew I had to make it. I only had one chance and I put 200% effort into it. Steven kept telling me I had to make it; I said the same to myself. I’m just so glad it went in. It was the best putt I’ve ever made.”
As an amateur, Chan wasn’t able to take the winner’s share of the US$150,000 prize purse, which went to Muangkhumsakul, but the ranking points she earned put her on course for a berth in Rio. To aid her cause before the Olympic field is set on 11 July, the former World University champion will play in this week’s Korea Women’s Open Championship in Incheon.
“The standings for the Olympics are always fluctuating, so I probably won’t know if I can qualify until much later,” continued Chan. “But winning here has helped a lot.”