Quarantine can’t quash Hong Kong golfer’s driving ambition

HONG KONG (AFP) – After just three tournaments this year, a chance of Olympic glory postponed and two weeks alone in quarantine, golfer Tiffany Chan could be forgiven for feeling sorry for herself.

Instead, Hong Kong’s first United States (US) LPGA Tour player is sporting a broad grin and taking the positives from the game’s COVID-19 shutdown, determined to establish herself in the fiercely competitive world of women’s golf.

The talented 26-year-old kept herself fit physically and mentally during lockdown and is happy to be back on the fairways since coronavirus restrictions were eased last month.

“When I came back to Hong Kong (in March) I actually did a lot of good motivational stuff,” she told AFP at Hong Kong Golf Club.

“I read more, I did home workouts and I spent more time with my parents.”

Her first 14 days back in her home city were spent in isolation and she will have two more weeks in quarantine when she returns to her Las Vegas base later this month, ahead of the tour’s expected resumption in July.

LPGA golfer Tiffany Chan of Hong Kong. PHOTO: AFP

But Chan dismisses any notion of hardship.

“With all the difficulties that are going on around the whole world, I should be positive and making good use of this period to make myself a better player,” she said.

Chan ranked 140th on the money list after her rookie 2018 LPGA Tour season, forcing her back to qualifying school.

In her second season, a more experienced Chan recorded two top-20 finishes and made her maiden cut in a major at the US Women’s Open.

Chan kept her card and was targetting further success in 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic laid waste to everyone’s plans.

Unlike some in the lower echelons of the money list, Chan has few financial worries despite having no prize money to play for since her last tournament, the Australian Open in early February.

“It’s a little different for athletes, we do have sponsorships,” said Chan, whose main backers are private bank EFG and Hong Kong Golf Club.

“Even though I’m not playing any tournaments, I still have my great sponsors behind me supporting me throughout this hard time when everyone is struggling to even go to work in Hong Kong.

“I can afford to go to the gym, find a trainer and go to practise.”

Chan said the announcement by LPGA Tour Commissioner Mike Whan that players would keep their status for 2021 had also come as a relief.

“I think this is good for most of us on tour. It means we are not forced to go back and play. Some players might be scared of it.”

At the weekend, Germany’s world number 36 Caroline Masson said she feared contracting COVID-19 while on the road. “Nobody wants to be in that situation, to be far away from home battling this,” Masson revealed to a podcast.

But Chan, by contrast, said she “100 per cent” aimed to be on the tee for the LPGA Tour’s planned resumption at Ohio’s Marathon Classic from July 23-26, and has been able to relax now the pressure of having to keep her card has been removed.

“I don’t have to think about making cuts. So when I’m in such a positive mindset, I just think I could play like the big players, because they play fearlessly,” Chan said.

“My goal is to break through to a top-10 finish. Having this period of time, I think my golf game grows day by day.

“If I could have more top finishes, it could definitely help me to break through into the top 10, then top five and eventually I could be winning.”

Having got over her Olympic disappointment, Chan, who came 37th at Rio 2016 as an amateur, thinks the Tokyo delay could work in her favour.

“Well, I was really excited by playing at the Olympics this year.

“But I’ve really enjoyed this time off to work on my game. Who knows what’s going to happen?

“Hopefully I could have a chance to win a medal.”