‘We watch these guys on TV’: promising golf duo to share the course with their idols at Hong Kong Open
Two of Hong Kong’s finest amateurs are ready to learn from the pros after qualifying for next week’s Open
They say never meet your heroes, but Hong Kong golf talents Taichi Kho and Matthew Cheung Hung-hai will be doing exactly that at next week’s UBS Hong Kong Open.
The two amateurs, who placed first and second at the September qualifying tournament respectively, will join fellow Hong Kong teenager Leon D’Souza in rubbing shoulders with the likes of Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood in Fanling.
“I’m most excited to see Justin Rose,” 22-year-old Cheung said. “He has a pretty swing and I love his demeanour on the golf course. I used to watch a lot of his swings and wonder how I could get to those spots.”
“We watch these guys on TV on a weekly basis, so to actually be able to play in the same tournament as them is going to be pretty cool.”
For 17-year-old Kho, the Open is a chance to learn from the very best in the sport.
“I feel like it’s a level up and taking in the experience will be a huge learning curve,” he said. “Every pro there is doing this for a living, so I want to see them practice and prepare; I want to see what makes them so good.”
The pair are hot off the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championships in New Zealand and Malaysia and are already making adjustments ahead of their Open debut.
“What I’ve found over the past few weeks is that I play best when I focus on my own game – focusing on specific targets like making the cut limits myself,” said Kho, an international baccalaureate student at Discovery College.
Kho has to hand in an extended essay before he can fully turn his attention to the fairways.
“I have tried to control my mental game because lots of my pressure comes from expectations and that’s not good for golf. I need to be in the right mindset and use the pressure for something positive.”
Cheung, an Oklahoma City University graduate, has devoted plenty of time to improving his game, having played for seven weeks in a row.
“These are the first couple of months of completely focussing on golf – I don’t have to worry about exams like Taichi,” said Cheung, who lived in Australia for nine years. “I was kind of running out of steam so it’ll be nice to get some rest and stay fresh for next week.”
“If I’m playing well, making the cut should be very doable. I just need to focus on the day-to-day and treat it like every other tournament. If I keep to that, I can see it being a good weekend.”
For such a momentous milestone in his career, Kho will be caddied by his father – a six-year strong combination.
“It’s great to have him there because I can say anything, especially in the heat of the moment,” said Kho, who already made his parents proud earlier in the week after signing his national letter of intent to the University of Notre Dame.
“We’ve been trying to keep it to player and caddy, not father and son. That separation is important because our main objective is to perform well. He understands the situation because he’s a golfer himself.”
Cheung, meanwhile, has invited friend and national teammate Michelle Cheung Wing-yee to join him on the course.
“I asked her to be on the bag because it’s nice to have a friend to keep you in the moment,” he said. “I know I’m going to be nervous – if you’re not, it means you don’t really care – so I want someone there who can talk to me like a normal person.
“It’s about disassociating myself from the pressure and Michelle will make it feel like a normal Sunday afternoon round rather than a big tour event.”
Both Kho and Cheung had set specific goals to qualify for the tournament and are confident in each other’s abilities to impress in front of the home crowd.
“After watching Matt play in New Zealand, you get the feeling he’s going to be playing for quite a while,” said Kho. “I could see what he’s better than me at – the way he gets around the course is different compared to my style.
“At the end of the day it’s about getting a low number and that’s what he does.”
Cheung, a self-confessed swing obsessionist, had plenty to say about his teenage counterpart.
“His golf swing is probably one of the best I’ve seen out of all the juniors and amateurs I’ve played with,” said Cheung.
“It’s something I really admire and also a bit jealous of. He can really get it going when he’s playing well, and he’s still young so he will learn even more.”