Hong Kong housing

Peter Thomson’s plea to save the Hong Kong Golf Club is revealed as world mourns passing of Aussie great

Three-time Hong Kong Open champion dies at 88 after battle with Parkinson’s disease, having written emotional letter last month urging land supply task force to save ‘incredibly special’ Fanling course

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 June, 2018, 10:44am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 June, 2018, 11:13pm

Peter Thomson, a giant of the golfing world, won five British Opens and one of his final acts in the sport was to throw his support behind Hong Kong Golf Club (HKGC) in its fight for survival.

Thomson, who won three Hong Kong Opens in the 1960s and was considered one of Australia’s greatest golfers, died on Wednesday aged 88 after a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s disease but was voicing his concern for the Fanling course as recently as last month.

The HKGC’s Old Course has been identified by a government task force as a prime site for development to help combat Hong Kong’s housing crisis.

Not only did Thomson assist with the renovation of the Old Course, he was involved in designing the Eden Course and played in the first Hong Kong Open held at Fanling in 1959, going on to win the event in 1960, 1965 and 1967.

In his letter dated May 15 this year, Thomson wrote to land supply task force chairman Stanley Wong Yuen-fai urging him to spare what he labelled “an incredibly special place in the world of golf”.

“I do not wish to make light of Hong Kong’s need for public housing. Clearly this is a significant and important issue that needs to be addressed and overcome,” said Thomson, widely considered one of golf’s true gentlemen.

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“But it should not be at the expense of what is undoubtedly a historic and world-class golfing venue. I feel a close affinity with the city and the Hong Kong Golf Club itself.

“Let me state clearly: the Hong Kong Golf Club is an incredibly special place in the world of golf. Not only is it historically important – its courses, notably the Old Course, are architectural gems that have been laid out over pristine, ancient terrain – but its role as the focal point for all of Hong Kong golf cannot be understated.”

Thomson, who was the first Australian to win the British Open and won 84 professional events, returned to the city in 2008 to celebrate the 50th edition of the Hong Kong Open.

In his letter, he addressed a number of “falsehoods” about public access to Fanling.

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“While it is a private members’ club, it is one of the most open members clubs’ anywhere in the world, with over 40 per cent of rounds played by non-members,” Thomson said.

“It has been at the very epicentre of golf’s development in Hong Kong, allowing countless youngsters an opportunity to get their start in the game and grow into accomplished players.

“Furthermore, as home of the Hong Kong Open – unquestionably one of the most significant golf tournaments in all of Asia – the club has enhanced Hong Kong’s reputation as a bona fide sporting centre.”

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Thomson also highlighted Fanling’s status as a “vital green lung”, before finishing: “Let me end this letter by being frank with you. Take away the Hong Kong Golf Club and the game of golf, and indeed Hong Kong itself, will be a much poorer place.”

The government’s five-month public consultation on land supply is under way and will end in September, with some already saying the exercise is failing to address key concerns.