Time for Hong Kong to invest in Tiffany Chan after stunning US debut, says leading coach
Hong Kong professional makes flying start to life on second-tier Symetra Tour with second-placed finish at the Decatur-Forsyth Classic after final-round 63
Hong Kong must look to get behind golfing sensation Tiffany Chan Tsz-ching as soon as possible following her stunning debut performance in the US, said the locally-based former coach of two-time major winner Suzann Pettersen.
Chan carded a bogey-free final round of nine-under-par 63 to leap up the Decatur-Forsyth Classic leaderboard, and the 23-year-old remarkably finished as runner-up in just her second outing as a professional.
Former Hong Kong Golf Club head professional Iain Roberts is now hoping to secure sponsorship, potentially from Chan’s long-term supporter and backer in the shape of Swiss private bank EFG, to allow him to work with her as she pursues her dream of playing on the top-level LPGA Tour.
“Hong Kong has never had a player like this in the world of golf so it is important they get behind it and try and help her,” said Roberts, who is the holder of the coveted PGA Master Professional accolade.
“I know she has a sponsorships deal with EFG and I am trying to find some support locally to cover some of the costs. I want to support her and do as much as I can, but I’ve got to pay my way.
“I was working with Suzann Pettersen on the LPGA, but that is different as they have lots of money, but these young girls when they are finding their way, they need to find a bit of sponsorship to help them out.”
Former EFG Hong Kong Ladies Open champion Chan had made an encouraging start on the second-tier Symetra Tour with opening rounds of 70 and 72 and Hickory Point Golf Course before erasing an eight-shot deficit to top the leaderboard in the early afternoon with the best round on the tour this season.
Overnight leader Chorphaka Jaengkit from Thailand, though, managed two late birdies to claim the title and deny Chan a dream start having only turned to the professional ranks last month ahead of the defence of her Hong Kong Ladies Open title.
The finish, though, lifted Chan up to 29th on the Symetra Tour order of merit, with a top 10 at the end of the season earning a card on the 2018 top-level LPGA Tour schedule.
Chan pocketed US$12,311 for her efforts in Illinois at the US$130,000 event, with 10th place at the moment held by American Daniela Iacobelli who has US$23,642 earnings from nine events this season.
Over the last two years – which like 2017 had 21 events – US$53,867 and US$67,577 was enough for a top-10 finish, with 11 events remaining this season.
“It is very important this season, she has just got to 29th on the order of merit, so if she can get up high and get on the LPGA and keep the momentum going ... I am looking forward to getting there as soon as I can, maybe in July, and getting some work done,” added Roberts, who briefly worked with Chan at the Hong Kong Ladies Open earlier this month as the defending champion finished 13th on her professional debut.
“Overnight she sent me a really nice message saying she has shot a 63 for nine under and she is really happy.
“I have had an initial conversation with EFG and I hope to meet them this week to see if they can help, if not them, we have just got to try and approach a few other people.”
Chan will look to keep that streak going at this week’s US$150,000 Island Resort Championship in Harris, Michigan, having made the 800km drive north overnight from Illinois.
Roberts, who divides his time between Hong Kong, where he lives with his wife, Niki, and his work in the US and Europe, would ideally work with Chan three or four times during a year on tour after several sessions ahead of a season.
“She is certainly long enough off the tee, she is straight off the tee and has good control of her tee shots. She has very good iron work, but it is about getting more height and spin on her approach shots,” he added.
“Her putting is pretty good, she just needs to hole as many as possible. But where I am going to help her is on course management and planning how she plays her season to make sure she does not crash and tire out too early and making sure she is ready.
“Technically her swing is pretty sound, she just needs to get a higher ball flight and we will look at the equipment and the technique to achieve that.
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“I spent a little bit more time with her on Saturday and Sunday in Hong Kong and on Sunday, as she is now playing full time as a pro, she asked could I coach her full time, which I think is pretty exciting and we will try and work out a schedule when we can meet up during the season.”