Still in school: Hong Kong Ladies Open learning curve for Tiffany Chan ahead of US adventure
Olympian finishes tied for 13th in first outing as a professional before jetting off to compete on the second-tier Symetra Tour
Tiffany Chan Tsz-ching fell short of a fairy tale debut as a professional at the EFG Hong Kong Ladies Open on Sunday, but it will go down as a successful first outing in the paid ranks, with the recent college graduate learning some valuable lessons ahead of her looming US adventure.
Chan finished tied for 13th in defence of the title, which eventually took the Tuen Mun native to the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games last year, having turned professional last month.
The 23-year-old reached the same mark of five-under-par overall after three rounds over the Old Course at Fanling which earned a place in last year’s play-off, but on this occasion Thailand’s Supamas Sangchan won the US$150,000 event by one shot at 10-under-par.
Chan was never really in the hunt all week, with her final round bid falling apart early after dropping three shots over her first four holes at Hong Kong Golf Club.
“After this tournament, I have a lot to look back on and improve, like before I tee off, I don’t want to say the audience is a distraction, and I don’t want to say no to taking a photo or signing hats, but I think I need to handle that better next year or when I play on a bigger tour,” said Chan, who recovered admirably to finish with a final round of two-under-par 70 to add to earlier scores of 72 and 69, which earned her a first prize cheque of US$2,580.
“I think I need to leave that until after the round as if I take a photo everyone will start to come over. I am happy to have someone asking, but I need to handle it better.
“But overall, I think I did pretty well handling all the pressure with all my friends, my high school friends, my family and my relatives, as they all came out and watched and I think the audience was bigger than last year, so it was a good experience for me.”
This week was a unique experience with Chan defending her title in her first event as a professional on her home course, but it will all serve her well as the University of Southern California graduate jumps straight into the second-tier Symetra Tour in the US next week.
Chan has full playing rights on the tour for the reminder of the season, and will look to secure a top-10 finish on the order merit to earn a place on the main and potentially lucrative LPGA Tour next season.
First stop will be the US$130,000 Decatur-Forsyth Classic in Illinois, which represents the first of the 13 remaining events on the Symetra Tour this year.
“I am still confident for the States. For the first few tournaments I need to adjust to the jet lag and timing, but I am more positive looking forward because I can be more focused. In Hong Kong the focus was on me, but I can focus more on my game,” added Chan, with a top 20 finish on the Symetra Tour earning a place in the final round of qualifying for the LPGA Tour, which is the same stage she reached earlier last year having started in the first round.
“I think the fields and prize money is pretty similar to this week, although not the same as the LPGA. “There are a lot of players fresh from college like me and I know almost half of them and a lot are friends from junior golf. I just need to gradually improve and I can reach my goal, but I still have some areas to improve physically and mentally.
“I am not sure if I will like it on my own, although I went to college for four-and-a-half years and my parents are not in the States, so I handled it all on my own. I will look to follow a similar pattern to the four-and-a-half years in college, but just more professionally.”