Hong Kong Open: local prodigy Ben Wong steels himself after brutal initiation to professional golf
- The 19-year-old’s response to a tough opening day at Fanling suggests he’s got the mental armoury required to forge a career
- He bounces back from a nine-over-par 79 with a much-improved performance on Friday
You have got to be mentally bulletproof to survive in the golfing world and if Ben Wong Shuai-ming’s response – both on and off the course – to his brutal debut round at the Honma Hong Kong Open is anything to go by, the 19-year-old is on his way to building the required armoury.
Wong is Hong Kong’s top-ranked amateur golfer at 89 in the world but his first round in a professional tournament was the mother of all wake-up calls, with the teenager shooting a nine-over-par 79 on Thursday.
“The course kicked my arse and there’s a lot to learn,” he said of his opening round. “Coming in, I knew this was more of a mental test than it is physically. I was just mentally prepping myself out there but obviously I’ve never experienced anything like this before.
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“Even though I told myself ‘just stay in the zone and play your own game’ I think it all definitely got to me at one point.
“But I recognise that and I think moving forward that’s a huge experience for me and I think the worse thing I can do is to not learn anything.
“I think it’s a lot just for me to get comfortable with being on the biggest stage in the world. I think that’s a process and I definitely learned a lot.”
Wong showed on Friday that the learning curve has already begun, producing a four-over-par 74 that could have been so much better.
“I hit a lot of really good shots, I felt like I was more stable and I was giving myself looks all throughout the day. I just couldn’t get a putt to drop,” said Wong, who finished 13 over to miss the cut by 12 shots.
“I played my own game and proved to myself that I can really hang with the boys out here. I knew coming into this tournament whatever position I finished there is so much to learn.”
Born in Hong Kong, Wong has lived in the USA since he was 14 and studies at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas – whose alumni include Bryson DeChambeau – but represented the territory in this year’s Asian Games and considers himself a Hong Kong golfer.
“Representing my country means a lot to me and just being around the other athletes, experiencing the Games village, the whole package was a great experience,” he said.
Like so many young golfers, Wong looks up to Tiger Woods, while he says the impact Tiffany Chan Tsz-ching’s rise to the LPGA Tour has had on the psyche of Hong Kong golf should not be underestimated.
“We all look up to her and I’m sure all the kids here in Hong Kong do as well. She gives us that self belief that anything is possible,” he said.
And while he has lofty goals, the level-headed Wong is not about to rush things in a bid to fast track his rise.
“My goal is to be on the PGA Tour. There’s not really a time frame, I’m just going to go through the process and see what happens,” he said.
“If there are any doors that open up for me before college ends I’ll definitely consider that. But as of now I’m still a college student, I’m still learning.”