Hiding in plain sight: Tiffany Chan seeks time away from the spotlight as Hong Kong jewel looks to shine in the US

After a whirlwind week at the Hong Kong Ladies Open, the 23-year-old looks to settle down to the business of establishing herself on the Symetra Tour

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 June, 2017, 9:44am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 June, 2017, 9:45am

There was once two Tiffany Chan Tsz-ching’s in South Korea, an error that almost cost the Hong Kong golfer her place at the Olympic Games.

But the fact that there will only be one less high-profile 23-year-old competing in the US on the second-tier Symetra Tour this year will only play into her hands as she seeks to establish herself in the professional ranks.

Chan endured a baptism of fire at last week’s EFG Hong Kong Ladies Open as she made her professional debut in defence of the title she won last year as an amateur.

She happily and cheerfully took on all responsibilities, which included sponsor commitments after signing a deal with bank EFG, as well as media demands as everyone wanted a piece of the new jewel in the Hong Kong sporting crown.

But the public adoration finally tipped the scale during Sunday’s final round as a growing gallery tracked her final 18 holes of Hong Kong Golf Club’s Old Course.

After receiving a warm welcome on the first tee and agreeing to any request for a photo or signature, Chan went on to bogey three of her opening four holes which ended her already testing title challenge before it even started.

It was an unusual sight seeing a professional signing hats and agreeing to photos before a round, and the link between that distraction and her opening drive which ended up to the left of the fairway is an easy one to make.

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Chan, with a smile on her face, conceded after her round that is something she will need to work on for next year, although in the US, thankfully at least initially, she will not have any where near that level of attention.

Also last week’s tournament was like a perfect storm as Chan was the defending champion, who just turned pro having represented Hong Kong so admirably at last year’s Olympics, and who had returned home having just graduated from the University of Southern California.

Chan was able to show immense character, which will stand her in good stead for the grind of tour life in the US, by regrouping and eventually posting a two-under-par final round.

She admits she needs to improve the mental and physical aspects of her game, but let’s not underestimate the challenges of being a professional golfer and the fine margin of error which make the game loveable and frustrating at the same time.

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Most onlookers have commented she has the basics to do well, and having stuck to her guns and got an education behind her and finished college before turning pro, that only further underlines her character and potential for success.

With four-and-a-half years in college in the US without family around her, Chan already has the aptitude to deal with life as a touring pro.

Thanks to EFG she does not have to worry about paying for flights and hotels for the next three years and can focus on increasing her bank balance, which was boosted by US$2,580 after finishing 13th last weekend.

Of the 22 events on the Symetra Tour, only four offer greater prize money than was on offer at Hong Kong Golf Club.

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New world number 508 Chan said the field at Fanling was comparable to the Symetra Tour, with some observers suggesting it was significantly better than 12 months ago

This was highlighted by Supamas Sangchan’s winning mark of 10-under par compared to the five-under score which Chan posted a year earlier before winning in a play-off, although that does not take anything away from the Chan of 2017, that’s just golf.

After last week’s exploits at Hong Kong Golf Club, Chan has hotfooted it back to the US for this week’s Decatur-Forsyth Classic in Decatur, Illinois, which is some 400 kilometres from the previous Symetra Tour event in Indiana.

The level-headed Chan knows she will need time to adjust, mainly to the time zone change, so let’s give her time. When she hopefully returns to the Hong Kong Ladies Open next year, that world ranking should be a lot higher and who knows, she could also have an LPGA Tour card in her back pocket … but just wait until after the round to ask her for a photo.