Tif­fany plan­ning to show some sparkle

China Daily (USA) - - RIO OLYMPICS - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Hong Kong

Golf’s re­turn to the Olympics has been hit by a host of with­drawals, but for Hong Kong am­a­teur Tif­fany Chan, reach­ing the Rio Games is a dream come true.

The 22-year-old booked her ticket by fin­ish­ing 56th in the Olympic rank­ings, giv­ing her the chance to com­pete against the lead­ing lights of the women’s game.

“I my­self am re­ally hon­ored to play in the Olympics as it is the high­est stage any ath­lete can get to,” Chan said.

The uni­ver­sity stu­dent is one of three am­a­teurs to qual­ify for Rio, which will fea­ture 60-strong men’s and women’s com­pe­ti­tions as golf re­turns to the Games af­ter a 112-year ab­sence.

Top men’s play­ers like Jor­dan Spi­eth and Ro­ryMcIl­roy have pulled out, with some cit­ing con­cerns over the mos­quito-borne Zika virus which can cause birth de­fects if it in­fects preg­nant women.

But few of the fe­male golfers have voiced such con­cerns, and Chan said drop­ping out never even crossed her mind.

“I have no plans to set up a fam­ily now so I am not too wor­ried, and I think it’s a must to take part since I was given the chance,” she said.

Chan first en­coun­tered golf at the age of six when her fa­ther, a build­ing con­trac­tor, took her to a pub­lic range in a sub­urb of densely pop­u­lat­edHong Kong.

Un­like many Asian fam­i­lies who spend big on their chil­dren’s golf ca­reers, Chan said her par­ents had no am­bi­tions for her to be­come a top player.

“It was more a fam­ily hang-out on week­ends. We just paid HK$6 dol­lars (77 cents) per hour to play at a bay,” she said.

Later, Chan was scouted by of­fi­cials of Hong Kong’s ju­nior golfer de­vel­op­ment pro­gram, who sent her to com­pete in over­seas youth events.

With lim­ited ac­cess to the fi­nan­cial hub’s ex­pen­sive golf clubs, she earned a schol­ar­ship to at­tend uni­ver­sity in the United States, where she trains.

“When I was younger there was not much op­por­tu­nity formeto prac­tice on real ranges. This is my weak­ness so I need to work harder,” she said.

Chan will face the world’s best in Rio, in­clud­ing Ly­dia Ko from New Zealand and South Korea’s Park In-bee. She hopes to fin­ish in the top 40, but said her main aim was just to learn from the pro­fes­sion­als around her.

“There are 57 pro­fes­sion­als, so to en­ter the Olympics as an am­a­teur is al­ready a dif­fi­cult thing.

“I just want to learn through these Games,” she said.

Af­ter uni­ver­sity, Chan is plan­ning to turn pro­fes­sional and em­bark on a ca­reer which she hopes will pro­mote the sport in Hong Kong.

“Not­many peo­ple play golf in Hong Kong ... but usu­ally when there is an out­stand­ing player the sport can get a big boost,” she said.

AP

Hong Kong am­a­teur Tif­fany Chan will be com­pet­ing against some of the world’s top pro­fes­sion­als at the Rio Olympics.

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