Golf: Amanda in bloom

Amanda Tan (above) will replace Lydia Ko as the youngest player at the HSBC Women's Champions.

SINGAPORE - Usually, it is the parents who influence their children to pick up a sport.

But, for Amanda Tan and her family, it's the other way around when it comes to golf.

The 14-year-old Singaporean will be the youngest-ever competitor at the HSBC Women's Champions tournament, after she won the local qualifying competition on Tuesday . Amanda topped 11 other golfers in the two-day qualifier at Sentosa Golf Club's (SGC) Serapong Course to secure her place in the US$1.4 million ($1.8m) LPGA Tour tournament from Feb 27 to March 2.

The 1.0-handicapper shot a seven over 79 on Tuesday to add to her first round 78, for a total of 157, to give her a one-shot victory over joint-overnight leader Jen Goh (80).

Her parents, Ricky and Mandy, supported her from the clubhouse during the two-day qualifier, providing the Singapore Sports School student with pointers along the way.

Speaking to The New Paper, her father Ricky, 46, a businessman, recalled how it all began for Amanda.

"She was in Primary One and needed a CCA (Co-Curricular Activity)," said Tan, a social golfer.

"I had a country club membership at Sentosa, so the whole family would go to the driving range, hire a pro and learn the game. None of us could tee it off well, except for Amanda, and she began to love golf."

Tan is not surprised that Amanda - who plans to turn professional at 18 - has come so far in the past seven years.

Passion

He said: "She really has the passion for the game so, if she wants to turn pro, we'll definitely support her."

After competing in five qualifiers since 2010, this is the first time Amanda, who is ranked second on the Singapore Golf Association Women's Order of Merit, will play among the pros at the LPGA Tour event.

The bespectacled teenager will get the opportunity to rub shoulders with 62 of the world's leading players, including world No. 1 Park Inbee, No. 2 Suzann Pettersen, and defending champion Stacy Lewis.

At the post-event press conference, it seemed the feat hadn't quite sunk in yet for Amanda, who will turn 15 next month.

When asked how she felt to replace 16-year-old Lydia Ko - the world No. 4 from New Zealand - as the youngest player at the HSBC event, Amanda was speechless for a few seconds.

"I'm really excited and I'm looking forward to it," she said later, adding that her biggest wish is to be paired with her idol Lydia.

To date, her biggest international outing was last month's South-east Asia Games in Myanmar, where she finished sixth in the singles - the best result among Singapore's three female golfers.

That experience, coupled with her familiarity of the Serapong Course, helped Amanda during the qualifier.

"I've been a member (of the SGC) for the past three years, so I'm more familiar with the course than the rest.

Also, I've also been hitting it further this year," said Amanda, who averages 215 metres in her drives.

She will need all the support she can get at the HSBC Women's Champions if she wants to break the dreaded Singaporean streak. Since the start of the tournament in 2008, every local qualifier has finished last in the field.

When asked if he would carry the bag for Amanda during the tournament, her father Ricky said "No".

He said: "My wife and I helped her fine-tune her game and identify her weaknesses for the past two days.

"But, at the HSBC Women's Champions, we'll leave it to her. It's a major tournament, so we'll keep our distance."

aakasim@sph.com.sg


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