Hong Kong’s most promising lady golfers are in safe, motherly hands

Joanne McKee is aiding the development of the SAR’s most promising female golfers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 September, 2017, 3:53pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 September, 2017, 9:40pm

Chinese philosophy insists there is a yin to every yang, and while she is not of Chinese descent, Joanne McKee has certainly adopted this belief since setting foot in the city twenty years ago.

Aside from mothering Hong Kong footballer Jaimes McKee, Joanne captains the Hong Kong ladies golf team and plays a crucial role in the development of Hong Kong’s most promising female golfers.

Oft under the radar, McKee travels with the Hong Kong Golf Association’s top prospects as they embark on local and overseas tournaments. But her role is not to adjust grips or sharpen swings; rather, it is to provide mental stability.

“It’s more talking and dealing with frustration,” she explains. “I’m there to comfort and assist on and off the course. I try to impart what I’ve picked up from my own golf experience.”

And the Brit is certainly not shy of experience; she has been playing golf since the age of 16, along with her mother, father and two brothers, all of whom are keen golfers.

The McKees landed in Hong Kong in 1997 and joined the Clear Water Bay Golf and Country Club in 2001. McKee was in the club’s ladies committee the following year.

“I would volunteer for every junior tournament possible because I wanted to see how golf worked in Hong Kong,” she explains.

McKee transitioned to the HKGA ladies committee in 2004, where she served for eight years. However, it wasn’t until she joined the junior and international committee in 2012 that she found her true calling.

“I was appointed the national ladies team captain and really started getting involved with the national team. It has been a steep climb ever since,” she explains.

The same year, a young golfer by the name of Tiffany Chan Tsz-ching burst onto the scene. Chan, now 23 , would go on to win the Hong Kong Ladies Open and qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.

“Tiffany was the first one to come through, and what a role model she is,” says McKee. “We only really had four or five notable players in the junior girls at the time, but since then, the progression has been unbelievable.”

Today, Hong Kong has an abundance of young female talent such as 13-year-old Chloe Chan Cheuk-yee – winner of the Hong Kong junior championship in various age categories – and 15-year-old Virginie Ding – the reigning Hong Kong Junior Close champion.

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“It’s exciting to see such strong, young players,” says McKee. “They are competing in tournaments against girls four or five years older than them – it’s inspiring.”

Inspiration is a two-way street, of course.

“Joanne may be the ladies captain, but to me, she is more of a friend,” says Chan. “When we go overseas, our parents are often not with us, but Joanne and our coaches are.

“Jon [Wallett] and Brad [Schadewitz] would work on the golf side of things, but Joanne would teach us how to relax and enjoy the game. It helps a lot in our tournaments.”

The secret to the junior ladies’ success? More encouragement, less pressure, according to McKee:

“I find it tough when someone criticises the girls during a tournament. They have already prepared and are trying their hardest.

“I make sure that they are in the best possible frame of mind when they step onto the course. When I see they have had a rough day, I put my arm around them and tell them to think about something else, then refocus.”

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With an array of junior championships scheduled for the rest of the year, it’s no wonder the future stars of Hong Kong ladies golf smile when McKee enters the room.