The American dream remains alive for golfer Koh Sock Hwee after she successfully cleared the opening hurdle on the path towards becoming a LPGA Tour player.
The 2015 SEA Games individual bronze medallist - the first local female to achieve this in 24 years - is bidding to become the first Singaporean to earn membership in the prestigious United States-based multi-million dollar circuit.
She closed with a two-over 74 on Sunday for a two-over total of 290 at the Tour's initial round of qualifying school.
She was joint-39th in the field of 270 players at the Mission Hills Country Club in California.
As one of the top-60 finishers, she progresses to the next stage, which will be held at the Plantation Golf and Country Club in Venice, Florida at the end of October. The third and final round, also in Florida, will be in December.
Said Koh, who has been in the US since mid-July to acclimatise and familiarise herself with the course conditions: "I've passed part one of the test but there's still a long way to go. My mind is already preparing and focused on the next round."
Joining her will be compatriot Jen Goh, who finished one stroke ahead of Koh on 289 and also advanced to Stage 2. Said the 20-year-old amateur: "It's probably the best week of golf I've ever played. I hit the ball really well and didn't really make any mistakes.
"For two of us to go through shows that women's golf in Singapore isn't that far away in terms of ability from the likes of Thailand and China."
Former national player Christabel Goh, now a touring pro based in Florida, also made it to Stage 2 in 2013 but failed to advance further.
Despite struggling with her iron play and lag putting, Koh still managed rounds of 71, 73, 72, 74 and her consistency and ability to grind out a respectable score impressed her coach Andrew Welsford.
"It was the worst score she could have shot so that gives you an indication of her ability," said the Australian, who flew from his Sydney base to work with Koh for the past two weeks.
They have yet to discuss a similar arrangement when Koh returns to the US.
Added Welsford: "Sock did a lot of things well this week, she drove the ball beautifully, but moving forward she needs to be more creative with her shot-making which will give her more options on the course."
There is little time though to work on these areas as Koh, who still retains her amateur status, will be heavily involved in a series of tournaments (beginning with next week's Singapore National Amateur Championship) over the next month.
Another more pressing obstacle for the 25-year-old, who gives part-time mathematics tuition to help supplement her income, is one of finances.
After forking out around $15,000 for enrolment fees, flights, accommodation and car rental to clear Stage 1 of Q-school, expenses for the next phase - it costs US$3,000 (S$4,160) to register - are likely to rise.
It will mean dipping further into her savings. She said: "That's one of my main priorities when I get back later this week; trying to find some sponsors to help with some of the costs.
"Hopefully something will work out. In the meantime all I can do is train hard and keep chasing my dream."
This article was first published on Aug 11, 2015.
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