Hong Kong Open: 17 years after unforgettable round with Spanish great, the dream still burns for Steven Lam
- Hongkonger, now 25, was in awe of Jose Maria Olazabal as a nine-year-old
- Never forgot lessons the Spaniard taught him at 2001 pro-am
As Steven Lam Tsz-fung prepares to line up alongside 2017 Masters winner Sergio Garcia in the Honma Hong Kong Open, he is quick to recall an encounter with another star Spaniard that shaped his career.
Lam was only nine years old when he played with Jose Maria Olazabal in the pro-am of the 2001 Hong Kong Open and says what he saw that day left an indelible mark on him.
“I saw some of the best short game I have ever seen that day,” the now 25-year-old said. “It was the year he won the tournament and ever since that day I practised so hard on my short game and I was one of the best short game players in junior golf.
“He inspired me to practise on the short game around the green, especially bunker shots.”
One of Hong Kong’s brightest prospects as a youngster, Lam’s golf career perhaps hasn’t taken the exact path he may have liked, but as he prepares to play in his fifth Hong Kong Open he seems more than happy with his lot in life.
He recently graduated from the University of Birmingham in the UK with a degree in golf management and is now coaching at the Hong Kong Golf Club.
“After I graduated I started playing competitive golf in China and Thailand but it didn’t go that great so two months ago I decided to stop travelling so much for competitive golf because it cost me a lot more than what I expected,” he said.
That’s not to say Lam has given up on his dream of playing professionally, but the cutthroat nature of life on tour has shown him that he must get his ducks in a row first.
“In the next few years I will focus more on working and trying to save money, the biggest problem for me is when I travel I think a lot about the cost,” he said.
Already he has seen the benefits of taking the pressure down a few notches after finishing second in the Hong Kong Open qualifier despite going in with little expectation.
“I was quite fortunate to qualify for the Hong Kong Open. I was more relaxed on the course and I wasn’t caring that much, but I actually performed better. Hopefully I bring that momentum to this week,” he said.
Lam is yet to make the cut in his four attempts at Fanling but says a strong performance this year could bring trying to make it professionally back into the frame sooner rather than later.
“Maybe, you never know what is going to happen in the future. I might get sponsored. Playing on tour has always been my dream,” he said.
“I have never made the cut in the Hong Kong Open so I would be so excited. I made the cut on the Japan Tour when I was 16 but I have never done that in Hong Kong. It would great to do it in front of my parents and friends.”