Tiffany Chan ready to tackle ‘US Open-like’ Incheon course
A strong performance in Korea should be enough for 22-year-old star to secure spot in Rio
The second major of the year, the US Open, starts Thursday at Oakmont Country Club near Philadelphia, but on the other side of the Pacific, in Korea, Hong Kong amateur Tiffany Chan Tsz-ching goes out in the first round of her own “major”, which could see her cement a starting place in the Olympic Games this summer.
The 22-year-old from Tuen Mun brilliantly won last week’s Hong Kong Ladies Open, a US$150,000 professional event, in a thrilling sudden-death play-off at Fanling to propel her up into 58th place on the Olympic rankings, with the top 60 players making the elite field in Rio.
With the qualification period ending on July 11, Chan knows that a strong performance at this week’s Korea Women’s Open Golf Championship in Incheon, which has been set up to almost US Open-like standards, will all but sew up her spot in Brazil.
“This is the strongest professional field I’ve ever come up against and the course is playing pretty tough,” said Chan, who has Hong Kong national coach Brad Schadewitz on caddying duties.
“It’s a much different test than last week – the course is playing long, the rough is thick and the greens are really firm, so it’s a lot like the US Open.
“The winning score last year was one over, so I think it’s going to be more about saving pars than making lots of birdies.”
Thanks to her recent fine play, Chan has risen to No 13 in world amateur rankings, making her the highest-ranked amateur player from the Asia-Pacific region for the very first time.
“My goal has been to get back into the top 10 [a feat she achieved in late 2014], so it would be a very nice feeling if it happens,” said Chan, who earned All-American honours last month following a successful first season playing US college golf for the University of Southern California.
Another of Chan’s more pressing goals, of course, is collecting enough world ranking points at the Bears Best Cheongna Club, venue for the prestigious 1 billion won (approximately HK$6,620,000) tournament outside of Seoul, in order to make certain her passage to Rio, which sees golf’s return to the Summer Games for the first time in over a century.
With so much at stake, Chan, who is currently the only amateur in the top 60 of the Olympic rankings, would be forgiven for feeling the pressure. But the former Diocesan Girls’ School student, a product of the Hong Kong Golf Association’s junior development programme and a member of the Hong Kong Golf Club, certainly isn’t showing any sign of nerves – at least not publicly.
“Winning the Hong Kong Ladies Open has really given me a lot of confidence,” said Chan, who will go up against a number of LPGA Tour regulars, including defending champion Park Sung-hyun. “I’m swinging well and feeling good.
“But as happy as I was to win at Fanling, I’m only looking forward. This is a completely different course and a completely different field. I have to stay patient, take one step at a time and take the opportunities when I get them.
“It’s exciting to be here but my aim is quite simple: to make the cut, see where I stand and go from there.”