Rio on her mind: Olympics beckon for Hong Kong golfing starlet Tiffany Chan
HK Ladies Open winner lands in Korea for another professional event in bid to cement place at Games
Twenty-four hours after beating the professionals in the Hong Kong Ladies Open at Fanling, golden golfing girl Tiffany Chan Tsz-ching finds herself in line to earn one of the 60 elite spots available in Rio, which sees the game’s return to the Olympics for the first time in over a century.
The 22-year-old amateur from Tuen Mun produced a stunning birdie on the 18th hole on the Old Course at Hong Kong Golf Club to force a play-off with Thailand’s Kanphanitnan Muangkhumsakul, then went on to win at the first extra hole.
Although Chan has been in the top echelons of the World Amateur Golf Ranking for more than two years, her victory moved up her up 118 spots to No 440 in the Women’s World Golf Rankings, which awards points based on performances in professional tournaments.
Just as importantly, the result is expected to move her into 57th place in the Olympic rankings when they are published on Tuesday, with the top 60 players assured of their starting berths in Brazil when the qualification period ends on July 11.
It is, as the University of Southern California student attests, a complicated qualifying system with the potential for further fluctuations, but her focus now is to improve her position, which she hopes to achieve at this week’s Korea Women’s Open Golf Championship in Incheon.
“I still can’t quite believe it, but there’s still work to do in order to guarantee that place [in Rio],” said Chan, a former student at Diocesan Girls’ School.
“My main goal by playing these professional events has been to get into the Olympics, and so far it’s working.
“But I’ve really got to take it one step at a time and continue playing well. Winning the Hong Kong Ladies Open was the biggest move I could possibly make. It’s given me a lot of confidence and if I can continue at this level I should be fine.”
To aid her cause, Chan will also play in the Kumhotire Ladies Open, a Korea LPGA and China LPGA co-sanctioned tournament in Shandong province in the first week of July.
“These next two events both have strong fields, especially this week, so I’ll need to play well just to make the cut. But I’m excited to be in the position I am,” said Chan, who last month was awarded All-American honours after a strong season playing on the US college circuit.
“I haven’t had a lot of time to think about what’s happened. I was up until 3am after winning at Fanling doing my laundry and packing for the trip to Korea. It’s been pretty crazy.”
Chan is a product of the Hong Kong Golf Association’s junior development programme and joined the Hong Kong Golf Club earlier this year.
Club captain Kenneth Lam Sze-ken said: “Tiffany has been playing at Fanling since the age of eight, and the club is delighted and extremely proud of her achievements.
“Watching the way she won her national Open over her home course will live long in the memory – indeed, it was arguably one of the most exciting moments in the club’s long history.
“To qualify for the Olympic Games would be a truly amazing accomplishment, and the club is behind her every step of the way.”
National coach Brad Schadewitz, who will caddie for Chan in Korea, said: “The achievements of Tiffany and others are pushing golf to the forefront of sports in Hong Kong.
“Her win at the Hong Kong Ladies Open is going to have is a big impact on developing the game and if she can hold on and make it to Rio ... that will be a truly great moment in the history of local golf.”