Computer glitch almost cost new Hong Kong professional Tiffany Chan Olympic Games chance
Tuen Mun-native made history in Rio de Janeiro last year, but only after her father and China golf official spot error in world rankings
A computer glitch almost cost Tiffany Chan Tsz-ching the chance to compete at last summer’s Olympic Games, it has been revealed, as the Tuen Mun-native prepares to make her professional debut at this week’s EFG Hong Kong Ladies Open.
Chan finished 56th in the race to secure one of 60 spots in the Rio de Janeiro golf tournament, helped by her breakthrough success as an amateur at last year’s Hong Kong Ladies Open.
But after relying on sponsor invites from associations across Asia to battle her way into the tournament, Chan was almost denied the chance as she was initially shown to have finished outside of the top 60.
“We were a little nervous when we heard, but my dad said there is no way that your ranking is outside the top 60. We just needed to find a way to inform the world ranking people and hopefully they can get it fixed,” said 23-year-old Chan, who turned professional at the end of last month having graduated from the University of Southern California.
“Everyone was calculating as I was in the last few spots and it fluctuated a lot, everyone was getting nervous.”
A similar recent computer error also saw Asia denied its first women’s golf number one for a year and a half as New Zealand’s Lydia Ko eventually narrowly remained ahead of Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn.
It transpired that Chan had two records in South Korea, meaning one event had been missed off her world ranking points total, but thankfully father Willy and Chinese Golf Association honorary vice president TK Pen were on the case.
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“She was not in the Olympics at the cut off date, but I knew this was not right as she has entered enough tournaments and she had enough points,” said Taiwanese-American businessman Pen, who is also the chairman and founder of the China Ladies Professional Golfers’ Association (LPGA) Tour.
“I had received a letter from the Hong Kong Golf Association asking to help Tiffany get into tournaments.
“Every country outside of the top 15 can only have two players in the Olympics, but greater China also includes Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau and I wanted to see players from China in the Olympics.
“A lot of people are so divided with political view points when politics should be out of the picture, so I want to see people coming together, and sport is great way to show we have a lot more in common than differences.”
Chan had already established a relationship with golf officials in China since 2012, which has helped this week’s third edition of the growing Hong Kong Ladies Open become sanctioned by the China LPGA Tour.
Pen also revealed Chan personally took time to thank representatives from the respective China, South Korean, Taiwan and Japan golf associations as well as the Ladies Asian Golf Tour for their help in her bid to qualify for Rio, where she finished 37th overall.
A week before brilliantly winning at Hong Kong Golf Club last year via play-off, Chan had tied for fourth at a China LPGA Tour event in Jiangsu.
“When I asked them for a sponsor invite or just a spot to play in the professional event, the first thing they said was yes,” said Chan.
“My first professional event was in 2012 in China, and in the summer and winter I have played a lot of events in China and Taiwan to learn from the older players and the pro star players. Without their help, I would not be deciding whether to turn pro or not.”
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Chan begins her title defence on Friday morning at the Old Course at Fanling, with in-form Zhang Weiwei from China, Kuo Ai-chen from Taiwan and India’s Sharmilla Nicollet among the 117 players from 16 nations set to challenge the new Hong Kong professional during the three-day US$150,000 tournament at Hong Kong Golf Club.
“I like this tournament a lot and enjoy the highly competitive but friendly environment about it. I remember playing very well last year, but it was not enough to catch Tiffany,” said Zhang, who is in second place on the China LPGA Tour order of merit after winning in Zhuhai in March.
“She has improved a lot over these past 12 months, but I think the important thing for me is not to worry about anything else and just compete to the best of my ability.
“If I putt well, and take my chances, not to be play too safe, I think I have as good a chance as anybody.”