Al-Sowaidi case highlights HK's folly in failing to send any golfers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 December, 2006, 12:00am

Shorouq al-Sowaidi is testament to the utter absurdity behind the Hong Kong Olympic Committee's decision to bar golf from its list of sports here.

The 22-year-old Qatari native shot an unbelievable 192 over par, to finish bottom of the 24-strong field in the women's individual competition. She finished a staggering 221 shots behind gold medallist Ryu So-yeon of South Korea.

Now I'm not all that familiar with the standards of Hong Kong's junior golfers, but I will bet my last riyal that even the humblest local golfer would have put up a better showing than al-Sowaidi.

The token Qatari shot rounds of 118-117-119-130 at the par-73, 5,751-yard course at the Doha Golf Club. She must have been blushing in shame, especially after her final round. On average, she needed seven shots to complete each hole.

Poor woman. But at least she participated. The same cannot be said for Hong Kong's talented crop of youngsters who were crushed when the local Olympic committee decided for some inexplicable reason they needed professional golfers for these games.

The Hong Kong Golf Association was dumbfounded when told the list of amateurs they had presented was not good enough. In its infinite wisdom, the Hong Kong Olympic Committee said the team needed to be competitive and professional. Thus, no golfers.

The Qatari girl's performance throws the competitive argument out of the window. As for the issue of professionals - the games are only open to amateur golfers anyway. Neither Pak Se-ri nor Arjun Atwal turned up at the luxurious Doha Golf Club, but Hong Kong's officials in charge of team selection believed professionals were allowed entry. There might be pros in Doha, but they don't carry tees in their pockets.

The HKGA had hoped to send a young team, mostly teenage girls and boys, so they could gain invaluable experience before the next Asian Games which will be on our doorstep, in Guangzhou.

Brad Schadewitz, who is in charge of the association's junior development programme, said the opportunity of playing in Doha would only benefit Hong Kong's youngsters. 'Most of our kids are familiar with playing on the courses in Guangzhou and the experience that Doha would have given them, of playing in an Asian Games, would have been useful in four years' time,' he said.

Unfortunately that was not to be. And if success is the yardstick the Olympic committee is using, then a number of the 28 sports which Hong Kong are contesting will fall way short.

While these games will end as Hong Kong's best ever in terms of medals won, there are also sports where we are just making up the numbers.

In some team events, for instance handball and women's hockey, Hong Kong's involvement has been more in the Olympic spirit of participation rather than with any expectation of success. Hong Kong golfers may not have won any medals if they had taken part. But most certainly, they would have finished well ahead of al-Sowaidi.

If Hong Kong ever hope to match the likes of South Korea - the most successful team in golf, their women having won all the gold medals since the sport was introduced at Beijing in 1990 - they should be participating. We have the talent, but unfortunately our officials don't have the vision.

Number of the Day: 11

Al-Sowaidi's lowest point came at the par-four 318-yard seventh hole when she shot 11, seven over par. How would you label that score? Maybe the golf experts at the Hong Kong Olympic Committee should answer that.