Pui Ching Middle School excels in inaugural Inter-Secondary Schools Golf Competition at Fanling Old Course
Hong Kong Golf Association delighted with response after event attracts 79 students from 20 schools
The best sports events throw up surprises, and that is what happened at the inaugural Inter-Secondary Schools Golf Competition, at the Fanling Old Course in mid-May.
The one-day event, which was organised as part of efforts to promote the sport and encourage talented youngsters, attracted 79 students from 20 schools.
Despite sweltering conditions, the standard of play was high throughout and the day was hailed as a resounding success. The Hong Kong Golf Association, as main organiser, was delighted with the response and hopes the tournament can help golf become part of the sports curriculum at local schools, boosting its popularity. There is good reason to be optimistic.
One of the unexpected twists, which added spice to the competition, was the performance of Pui Ching Middle School (PCMS) in Mong Kok. Its students won the Grade A team award and provided the individual champion in the boys’ Grade A section, a result which few had predicted before teeing off.
The school has long seen the value of golf and what it can teach in terms of physical skills, mental discipline and correct behaviour.
Most of this year’s trophy winners started to play when still in the school’s primary section. To bring the game to more players, last year, golf was added as one of the main sports on the curriculum for all Form 5 students.
Each week there are structured training sessions under the supervision of a qualified coach.
Beginners are taken step by step through the basics on site at school, so they start off with the right grip, stance and posture when addressing the ball and have a good swing. As they progress, they move on to drills at a driving range to achieve greater distance, accuracy and consistency. And, if selected as a prospect for the school team, there is a chance to play an 18-hole round on one of Hong Kong’s in-demand courses.
“I wanted to give students the chance to try something new, which I hoped could also spark a lifelong interest,” says Liz Chung, the panel head for sports at PCMS. “Starting last September, every Form 5 student – boys and girls - has six ‘compulsory’ lessons to cover basic techniques. We want to make it fun so people enjoy it and, as their skills develop, to introduce more competition.”
Chung acknowledges the help of parents and golfing alumni, plus the school’s NET (native English teacher) Jason Woods, in getting the scheme off the ground. The plan is to offer more regular training in the coming academic year and, if possible, include other forms.
Chung’s own interest grew after taking a class on how to play and teach golf at a driving range in Sai Kung.
What she particularly liked was how the sport improves physical co-ordination and strength, while also teaching concentration, patience and perseverance. These, she believes, are important lessons for life.
In other respects, she found that golf can be great for making new friends and breaking down perceived social barriers.
PCMS sent 12 players to the recent tournament, which used the stableford scoring system awarding three points for a birdie, two for a par, and one for a bogey. Team members prepared with extra practice on Saturdays at the HKGA driving range in Tuen Mun and the occasional individual round at Kai Sau Chau, where the water hazards and bunkers provide all kinds of new challenges.
“During the tournament, I was nervous, but tried to play the way I had practised,” says Janet Leung Keng-pik, a 17-year-old in Form 5, who was one of the winning teams alongside Kun Ka-wun and Tam Ki-cheung.
“In general, I make sure to keep the ball on the fairway, study the slope of the greens before putting, and always take two practice swings first.”
Leung thoroughly enjoyed the experience and is already keen to play in more competitions. “There is lots of room for improvement for me,” she says.
“On the range, I try to figure out my weaknesses and work on my swing. I know I can achieve more personal bests.”
Representing a different PCMS team on the day, the individual champion in the boys’ category was Sum Sze-hang, a 16-year-old in Form 4.
He attributes the win to staying patient, keeping calm, and not being distracted by any of the talk around him.
“You need to tell yourself it’s just like a normal round with your friends,” says Sum, who relished the chance to test himself against different players.
“Golf, though, is a sport where you have to cope with difficulties by yourself and, even when you’re putting from short range, there are a lot of things to consider.”
No small part of all this success is down to part-time coach Sperry Kun Yuk-lun, a Pui Ching alumnus and father of one of the team’s star players.
When working with students new to the game, his approach is to keep things simple and not overcomplicate what might sometimes seem a fairly complex sport.
He may, for instance, start off by getting kids to swing an umbrella or a baseball bat, so they get a sense of their physical movements and hitting the ball without worrying about where it goes.
Once the swing begins to look and feel more natural, he will gradually bring in refinements such as opening the feet, bending the knees, and working on the club speed and follow through.
From early on, he also talks about the etiquette and how people are expected to conduct themselves whether practising, playing a round, or in any social situation.
“I teach students the necessary skills and the required behaviour,” says Kun, who qualified as an instructor in Chicago.
“Golf teaches you strategy, the consequences of actions, and respect for other people. One of the first things I tell kids is that you need to be polite on the course, control your emotions, you don’t get angry, and you certainly mustn’t throw your clubs.”
He would like to see local youngsters given more opportunities to play on 18-hole courses in Hong Kong.
In the meantime, he does what he can to help the better players get occasional rounds and iron out weaknesses by hitting balls at a driving range.
“My standard advice is to keep the swing smooth and keep practising,” Kun says. “Overall, we need more HKGA competitions and, maybe, friendly matches with other schools. That’s the way to get more kids playing and keep them improving.”