Channelling Tiger: Tiffany Chan forced to dig deep to rescue opening round in Rio

Hong Kong amateur says she resorted to Tiger Woods-style visualisation exercises to recover after disastrous triple bogey

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 August, 2016, 8:12am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 August, 2016, 10:21am

Hong Kong’s history-making Olympian Tiffany Chan Tsz-ching took a leaf out of Tiger Woods’ psychology handbook to recover from potential disaster to post an excellent level-par round on day one of the women’s golf in Rio.

Chan, one of only three amateurs in the field, was two-under at the turn, having three birdies in a row from hole five after bogeying four, and was sitting joint seventh.

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But an aggressive second shot on the par-5 10th put her in trouble in one of the soft-sand bunkers at the Olympic Course and she took a triple-bogey eight. After another bogey at the 11th, she’d gone from two-under to two-over in a flash and might easily have collapsed.

Some breathing and visualisation exercises helped calm the nerves and she was two under for the last seven with birdies on the 13th and 16th holes to lie 26th in the field of 60 after day one.

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“I kept telling myself and my caddy was too, saying you have eight more holes to go,” said the 22-year-old. “I’m glad I came back, the last three holes are easier and I managed to make two under after that, so to come back even par I’m pretty satisfied with that.

“I’ve played enough tournaments and made enough mistakes to tell me I shouldn’t be thinking of [shots from] before.

“Like Tiger Woods always says, he might get angry but the next shot recover. I kept calming myself breathing, did some kind of meditation stuff that I learned from my team at school, we’ve got a psychologist, and I think it helped me a lot through the round.”

Coach Brad Schadewitz was delighted with the way his charge managed to stay focused.

“I’m really proud of the way she hung in there and battled back – that showed how comfortable she is with her golf game and mentally she’s in a good spot.

“After she bogeyed the next hole it really could have snowballed into something. But she knew she was playing well and that’s a big thing – if she had been out there and hitting squirrelly shots yet had got a few birdies and was under par it might have affected her, but she was playing so good.

“In these bunkers you’ve got to really respect them and try to stay away from them as much as you can.”

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Chan was playing with home favourite Victoria Lovelady and had some rowdy crowds alongside her, though their passion fizzled out somewhat as Lovelady laboured to an eight-over 79.

Indeed, it was the Hong Kong contingent who started to take over, with Chan and her best friend’s parents flying the Bauhinia flag and waving cardboard cutouts of Chan’s face.

HK chef de mission Kenneth Fok Kai-kong, sports commissioner Yeung Tak-keung, Schadewitz and Hong Kong Golf Association chairman Mark Chan were also alongside her.

“I think they caught the TV attention more than I did,” said Chan, with her ‘uncle’ Mr Ho a particularly colourful and lively presence.

“They keep waving and I know they put a lot of effort in to make the cardboard signs, we have the matching shirt, and for my parents and ‘auntie and uncle’ to come all the way to Rio is very emotional for me and I’m really thankful.”

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And Chan caught the eye of a young autograph hunter, signing a boy’s plush toy as she went up 18.

“I was thinking if i should sign it, I didn’t want to get my mind outside the course, but we had some time and I saw he had the pen so I just did. I’m happy that he came to me – it’s a new experience for me!”

But will likely become a much more common one, especially if Chan achieves her goal of qualifying for the LPGA Tour this year. Stage one of qualifying school begins immediately after the Olympics, and her experience among the world’s best golfers here can only help.

For perspective, her score had her nestled alongside the likes of major winners Suzann Petersen, Feng Shanshan and Catriona Matthew.

Leading after day one on -6 was Ariya Jutanugarn, the in-form Thai who was a shock winner of the British Open last month. One shot back were seven-time major winner Park Inbee, and 2015 LPGA rookie of the year Kim Sei-young.

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“I think that inspires her too,” added Schadewitz, “she knows that her idols are out here playing the same field she can get out and compete with them, it’s a boost for her for going to the next level and that’s what she wants, to play the LPGA Tour and playing in something like this with all the stars gives her that confidence.

“The more you feel comfortable in this environment the more she’ll grow and advance and feel comfortable being out there with the big guns.”

Chan will try not to get distracted by the big digital leaderboards on every hole, and keep taking it ‘one hole at a time’ over the next three days.

“I try not to look at [the likes of] Inbee Park or Suzann and what they’re doing, but they’re top-ranked players that’s for sure,” added Chan. They’ll play well, I can only keep one shot at a time and play on my own and instead of focusing on surroundings, focus on my golf, I think I did a pretty good job today and hopefully can keep the mindset the next three days.”