Hong Kong Canto-pop sensation Stephanie Ho and lifelong friend Tiffany Chan to resume rivalry on the golf course at Fanling
The pair grew up playing together and are looking forward to locking horns in the Hong Kong Ladies Open in May
Well-known local singer-actress Stephanie Ho Ngan-si and golf sensation Tiffany Chan Tsz-ching may have taken totally different career paths in their teens, but the childhood friends’ memories of Hong Kong golf – which span 20 years – remain as fond as ever.
“We used to go to the Old Course [at Fanling] after school and play a round before eating at a nearby [dai pai do ng] to wait for our parents to pick us up,” recalled 25-year-old Ho, a former Hong Kong golf teammate of Chan, who recently became the first Hongkonger to qualify for the LPGA Tour.
Almost a decade on, the pair will finally be able to revisit their junior days and share the course after Ho clinched the Ladies Close Amateur Championship in Hong Kong in January, landing her a spot at the EFG Hong Kong Ladies Open this May. Chan won the Open in 2016 when an amateur.
Suffice to say the fiery competitiveness still runs through both their veins, regardless of Chan’s LPGA status.
Watch: Tiffany Chan and Stephanie Ho battle it out on the putting green
“It’s been more than 10 years since I last beat her,” said Ho, who recalled losing a dramatic five-hole play-off to Chan at the Junior Close Championship when aged 12. “I stopped playing golf years ago but it’s encouraging to win so soon after picking it back up.”
Remarkably, Ho had practised for a mere three months ahead of the amateur close and is looking forward to using her local platform for the sport which gave her and Chan so much.
“I played a lot when I was younger, and although my impact may not have been as good as others, I was a bit more experienced with my mentality. It was more about the short game and the putting,” said Ho, who won the amateur tournament in a play-off thanks to a stunning 30-foot putt.
“I really don’t know how I’ll play [at the Open] – I didn’t expect anything at the ladies’ close – so it could be a total disaster or it could go really well.
“I just want to use this chance to attract more public attention to golf. It’s been hugely neglected.
“This is the first tournament in a long time where the public will be able to watch me play, so I will encourage all my fans to watch.”
Having taken a hiatus from the public limelight for most of last year, Ho came to a realisation while at the 2017 men’s Open.
“I saw a lot of my friends watching and I realised that golf is a crucial part of me,” said Ho. “It releases stress and gives me time with the people close to me. Golf helps me keep a balanced mentality – that’s the most important thing. Plus it helps me lose weight.”
Ho’s claim to fame came in 2009 after appearing on local TV singing competition The Voice . The California-born singer became a fan favourite and soon made it to the small screen, most famously in TVB drama Gilded Chopsticks in 2014.
She has released two full studio albums – the latest being Lost In Love in January 2017 – and has racked up millions of views with various songs, including True Lovers and Love Takes Courage.
So how does the pressure of the set fare compared to the course?
“Being on stage is more nerve-racking,” Ho said. “I’m used to the pressure on the golf course – I play a lot better under pressure. I can’t really do social golf, I’m really competitive on the course.”
Chan had an unfortunate outing at the US$1.5 million HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore last week, hitting a wayward second shot at the eighth (her 17th) and ending the par five hole with a 10.
Chan is eight months into her professional career and is still adjusting to the step up in competition but Ho is confident her “Team Tiffany” fan base will eventually steer her performances in the right direction.
“She was telling me after we returned from Singapore that she was sorry she didn’t perform well enough for us to fly all the way over,” said Ho.
“Sometimes spectators go on to the green to watch the players approach, but I always walk beside her – that’s what a friend is for.
“It doesn’t matter how we’re playing, we’re both competitors and we’ll always be there for each other.
“We’ve known each other for 20 years and I can see it going on for another 80 if we live long enough.”