Merrill Lynch golfers raise HK$500,000 for abused children and drug addiction Erica Fung Wai-ying started playing golf so she could be 'one of the boys' at Harvard law school. Although she is fiercely competitive, she only managed to score 86. But this was still good enough for her to win the women's cup at the 11th annual Merrill Lynch Operation Santa Claus Golf Day last Friday at Xili Golf and Country Club in Shenzhen. Only two women were competing. Her opponent, Victoria Lloyd of Fried Frank law firm, was given a golf bag as a gift 10 years ago. But she only thought of learning how to play golf four months ago after being made a partner in the firm. She knew that her rival was a 'pro', and although she was proud of her new driver, and it did not let her down, it was not good enough to beat Ms Fung, of Simpson Thacher and Bartlett. Ms Fung, who attended Hong Kong International School, studied for a finance degree at the University of Pennsylvania before going to Harvard. She has been at the firm for only two months. 'I will do it [the golf tournament] next year, and will try to improve my handicap,' she said. Xili, a members-only course, provided just the right ambience for golfing enthusiasts who were raising money for two of this year's Operation Santa beneficiaries: End Child Sexual Abuse and Operation Dawn, a programme to help drug abusers at a rehabilitation centre. About 90 players had registered to play but, due to work and personal commitments, 27 were unable to attend, although they still chipped in with donations to the cause. The group set out early in the morning and had the course almost to themselves when they started. At the registration desk, eventual men's cup winner Mitchell Victorsen, from Merrill Lynch, gave a fist-bump to Wong Kwai-lam, the managing director and chairman of the firm's Asia-Pacific division, and a fixture at the tournament. 'Last year, there were more people, but it doesn't mean we're raising less money,' Mr Wong said. 'Notwithstanding that we are suffering from the financial tsunami, I am so impressed by seeing 63 people coming out, all having smiling faces, playing a good round of golf and raising money for Operation Santa Claus.' Most of the players had suffered because of the financial crisis. 'But we all believe this year there are more people negatively affected by this, so it is even more important to us to raise money to help those most in need.' Operation Santa Claus, he said, 'is in the blood of most of us'. 'Today it is a perfect day. There is some wind - for some serious golfers it is a challenge.' Mr Victorsen, an Australian, has been golfing since he was 15, following in the footsteps of his father, Mark, a professional teacher. 'The course here is a lot quieter. Courses in Australia are a lot busier and there are more public golf courses,' he said. The Golf Day raised HK$500,000 for Operation Santa Claus. Merrill Lynch will hold a mini-golf tournament for Operation Santa at its office in Citibank Tower tomorrow. Organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK, Operation Santa Claus, now in its 21st year, will aid 13 groups. Part of the funds will also go to the SCMP Homes for Hope project to help victims of the Sichuan earthquake rebuild their lives.