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Homegirl: Koh brings local knowledge to HSBC Women’s return

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KOH SOCK HWEE, Singapore’s top-ranked amateur, hopes that being ‘adopted’ by Sentosa Golf Club will help as she competes against the LPGA’s top stars in the HSBC Women’s Champions for a second time.

 

Interview SportAsia

Photos HSBC Women’s Champions 2015

 

February 2, 2015: Comfortably Singapore’s top-ranked amateur, Koh Sock Hwee earned a start in the HSBC Women’s Champions for the second time in four years by winning last week’s two-day Host Country Qualifying Tournament at Sentosa Golf Club. Koh, 25, will be among 63 players competing in the US$1.4 million no-cut event, which will be held over the club’s famed Serapong course from March 5-8.

 

In 2012, the-then university student finished last – although just one place below Michelle Wie – with a 37-over total, as the LPGA tournament marked its fifth and final edition at Tanah Merah Country Club before moving to Sentosa.

 

Koh in action in the HSBC Women's Champions qualifier.

Koh in action in the HSBC Women’s Champions qualifier.

However, Koh’s golf has improved greatly since graduating from the National University of Singapore and this time she will also have the benefit of competing at a venue she practises regularly at.

 

Koh is also preparing to play in the SEA Games at the same venue in June, which will mark her third appearance in the biennial competition after competing in Indonesia 2011 and Myanmar 2013. Koh has declared that she plans to turn pro after Singapore 2015, boosted by increasingly impressive results in recent years.

 

Having won the Singapore National Championship in 2013, Koh won arguably her biggest title last July when she beat off competitors from around Asia-Pacific to win the Singapore (SLGA) Amateur Open.

 

Two months later, Koh was her country’s top performer in the World Amateur Team Championship in Japan, having made her tournament debut in Turkey two years earlier.

 

Furthermore, she has been Singapore’s leading individual in three of the last four editions of the Queen Sirikit Cup (Asia-Pacific Amateur Ladies Team Championship) and also represented her country in the last four editions of the Santi Cup (South East Asian Amateur Golf Team Championship).

 

What were your overall thoughts on winning this years HSBC Women’s Champions Host Country Qualifying Tournament?

I was very happy. I didn’t have such an ideal start on the first day, because I had a lot of self-inflicted pressure, so on the second day I just told myself to have fun, make my usual ball contact, play slowly and calmly. It seemed to work. (For full report, visit: sport-asia.com/golf-koh-sock-hwee-seals-second-start-in-hsbc-womens-champions/)

 

Having first played in the HSBC Women’s Champions in 2012, how much does that motivate you to win the Host Country Qualifying Tournament each year?

Once you’ve played in it, then you know you can qualify again, so you really want it. I’ve heard HSBC may renew its sponsorship, but you never know if this is going to be the last year or not, so I just had to try extra hard to get in.

 

Koh won the HSBC Women’s Champions Host Country Qualifying Tournament on January 29.

Koh won the HSBC Women’s Champions Host Country Qualifying Tournament on January 29.

How many times have you played in the qualifier?

Every year. That’s eight times, so now my chances of winning are 25 per cent (laughs).

 

And you benefited from local knowledge this year over the Serapong?

I play a lot on this course. Being more familiar with the course really helped me. When I played last year, some of the holes we played were really long and I wasn’t so familiar with the wind. But when you’re mentally more comfortable, you’re just in a better place. I train with the national team on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, so apart from that, I come here for all my practice. I play here two or three times a week.

 

What’s your status at Sentosa Golf Club?

I have been very fortunate to be under the adoption scheme of Sentosa Golf Club since July or August of 2013. I’m not a member anywhere, so I was looking for a home club and it was very nice to be given this privilege. I’m not actually a member, but I’m given playing and practice privileges, so I was very lucky.

 

Will you play more here leading up to the HSBC Women’s Champions or always stick with national team training?

That’s a trick question! I guess I’ll do a bit of both. Practising here is not a bad idea because the SEA Games [golf competition] is also here. I’ve just come back from seeing my coach, Andrew Welsford, in Sydney, because I was there for the Australian Amateur Championship. I’ll talk to him a little bit and he’ll come up with a schedule. Andrew was the Singapore coach before Luke [Cantelo].

 

Koh shot a closing 73 to win the qualifier at Sentosa Golf Club’s Serapong course.

Koh shot a closing 73 to win the qualifier at Sentosa Golf Club’s Serapong course.

What are your plans between now and the HSBC Women’s Champions?

I’ll try and play a lot more on the course. The greens are very tricky, so I’ll just need to go out there and putt a lot, practise around the greens a lot, and know where I can miss and where I can’t.

 

What were your best memories of your HSBC Womens Champions debut in 2012?

I was very lucky to play a practice round with Laura Davies and Melissa Reid. Laura Davies was very nice. She’s a multiple Major winner and always contending, and I learned a lot from watching her.

 

How do you think you will handle the pressure compared to your debut three years ago?

Now, I will try to feel like I belong there. I was a bit starstruck in 2012 and now I guess it’s good that I’m getting ready to take the professional route. I’ll just handle it as it comes and maybe just control my emotions a little bit better. Still, I am pretty sure standing on that first tee on the first day, I am going to be pretty nervous, but will probably be able to manage it better this time.

 

Who would you like to play with?

It would be nice to play against Lydia Ko. She’s so much younger than me. Amanda [Tan] had the chance to play with her last year. I played against her in 2012 when she was still an amateur. She’s young, but her game is right up there.

 

Who are your favourite golfers?

This question always comes up (laughs). I don’t have a particularly favourite golfer to watch. I actually really like Tiger because he trains very hard … I mean, he’s just got game. On the women’s side, I always support an Asian. The LPGA is being ruled by Asians, Koreans in particular, and I remember Ai Miyazato doing really well, so definitely an Asian can stand up against other countries. It definitely makes you feel like you can do it. However, I’m not sure if I have a particular favourite.

 

Koh won the 2014 SLPGA Amateur Open.

Koh won the 2014 SLGA Amateur Open. Photo: SLGA.

What do you think has been the biggest achievement in your career so far?

I guess winning the Singapore Ladies Amateur [Open] last July. I believe that was a turning point, because it helped me believe in myself a bit more. That’s probably the biggest event I’ve won.

 

You have been talking about turning pro after the SEA Games. What have you learned from compatriots like Christabel Goh, who have turned pro in a bid to become a touring player?

I also want to become a touring pro. I know I’m not particularly young to be turning pro, but previously I had to finish my tertiary education. I studied Project and Facilities Management at NUS (National University of Singapore) and graduated in July 2012. Once I had finished, my parents have been very nice to let me focus on playing golf and I think SEA Games will be the last tournament I will play.

 

If I have enough funds, I might just try to go to LPGA Q-School in August and then there’s the Ladies European Tour Qualifying at the end of the year. I haven’t really made a plan. I’ve thought about it, but I just haven’t really come up with a final decision, because it’s expensive to go to Q-School. I think the first stage of LPGA qualifying will cost about S$20,000, so it’s expensive and not easy when you get there.

 

National Representation

  • Women’s World Amateur Team Championship; biennial – 2012 (Turkey), 2014 (Japan)
  • Queen Sirikit Cup (Asia-Pacific Amateur Ladies Team Championship); annual – 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
  • SEA Games (South East Asian Games); biennial – 2011 (Indonesia), 2013 (Myanmar)
  • Santi Cup (South East Asian Amateur Golf Team Championship); annual – 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014

 

Individual Honours

  • 2014 SLGA Amateur Open – Champion
  • 2014 Singapore National Amateur Championship – Third
  • 2013 Singapore National Amateur Championship – Champion
  • 2012 SGA vs MGA Annual Match – Member of SGA Winning Team.
  • 2012 NRG – Winner Ladies’ Division
  • 2011 Singapore National Amateur Championship – Third
  • 2011 Warren Amateur Open Championship  – Winner
  • 2011 Negeri Sembilan Amateur Open – Third

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