The Golf Development Director looks into how the top 12 players in Hong Kong fared in the 2017 season.
Jonathan Wallett looks into how the top 12 players in Hong Kong (six male and six female that make up the Hong Kong Talent Team) fared in the 2017 season.
2016 was a memorable year for Hong Kong due to the achievements of Tiffany Chan, notably qualifying and then putting on a fine display at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Tiffany has further excelled in gaining her playing privileges for the 2018 LPGA Tour by finishing 2nd at the Qualifying School last month. But I believe a golf program cannot base its success or failure on one player so let’s
2017 was the best season ever for the Men’s team. In November last year, there was just one player in the World Top 1,000 Matthew Cheung at 891. Leon D’Souza had gone backwards from WR 950 in 2015 and was sitting at 1,150 in November 2016. Currently, there are four male players within the top
1,000 - a Hong Kong record - with Ben Wong leading the way has improved from 1,640 to 376. Mimi Ho, who is in her last year of College Golf in the USA, excelled jumping from 550 to 341. Izzy Leung had some good results and improved her ranking from 607 to 572. Young talents Chloe Chan and Ginnie Ding both progressed solidly - Chloe from 1,455 to 1,124 and Ginnie from 1,428 to 1,248. Michelle Cheung’s ranking stayed almost the same, and the only player that regressed was Vivien Lee - but it’s important to say that Viviene played a very limited golf schedule due to school exams and has now secured a College Scholarship in USA starting next summer. And I’m sure 2018 will be a great year for Vivien.
Leon D’Souza was another who had a breakout year, with of course memories fresh from the best Hong Kong performance in the UBS Hong Kong Open since it’s been a co-sanctioned European Tour event. He went from 1,150 to 659 in the world ranking.
Terrence Ng entered the top 1,000 at WR 971 after being ranked 2,105 in November 2016. Matthew Cheung showed substantial improvement jumping from 891 to 671 with an international win in China. Yannick Artigolle was another who had a season to remember climbing from 3,870 to 1,431. And then Taichi Kho who had a strong performance in some tournaments including the PGA TOUR-China’s Clearwater Bay Open, where he finished a credible 24th. Taichi improved from 2,066 to 1,630 with a very bright future.
It’s important to remember that these results do not just happen - for every player that goes down in the World Ranking another goes up - and every year the rankings are becoming increasingly extensive and more competitive due to the number of elite players in the world game. Golf Associations and Federations are investing large amounts of money into their programs due to golf’s newfound Olympic status, which in many countries has released massive amounts of government funding that were previously not available to golf.
The commitment and dedication of the Hong Kong
Players are extremely high, but at this level, it’s not just about working hard but more critical SMART - that means working on the right things, at the
right time, in the right way. The information these players receive needs to be world class - after all, they are competing on the world stage against world ranked players. In 2017, Hong Kong Players received Biomechanics support from Golf Australia’s Ryan Lumsden, Psychology from Dr Brian Hemmings who worked with the England Golf Program for 17 years and mentored the likes of players such as Danny Willett, Ross Fisher and Chris Wood. We introduced regular 1:1 sessions with Jonathan Wallett together with online coaching for the players in the Talent Team. We’ve looked to make an effort a more focused with each player working to a specific vision with a
personalised plan. There’s a long way to go, but the
first roots have been established. In 2018, we would like to start the ‘Hong Kong Junior Talent Team’ so that we can build a young accelerator group behind these frontline players, who then get the same access to higher level of coaching expertise to optimise their opportunity of success.
Then behind this frontline support is the fantastic support from the clubs – the Hong Kong Golf Club as ever is the stalwart of the HKGA Player Development Program offering its course and facilities free of charge on an ever-increasing basis, which included 22 Player Access Memberships. The Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club offered 2 Player Scholarships in 2017, and that will be expanded to 4 in 2018. Then the support of the Player Development Program Advisory committee that consists of Peter Downie, Dean Nelson, Dominic Boulet, Grant Gibson and Paul Riley is invaluable as it allows us to utilise these industry professionals collective experience to develop a strategy that gives Hong Kong golf a competitive advantage. The admirable and unwavering support from the Player Captains Rob Keys and Joanne McKee who travel with the players to many of the international tournaments is critical. Then the J/I committee representatives who volunteer their time to help progress Hong Kong Junior golf. And at the centre, the HKGA Administration Office stewarded by the HKGA Exco committee.
It’s a collective effort, and these are exciting times for Hong Kong golf pioneered by Tiffany’s achievements. But I believe there’s a lot more to come, and our challenge with the Player Development Program is to progress our systems to build a Player Funnel from the ground up, so we can allow as many Hong Kong youngsters to enjoy this wonderful game and a pathway to University Scholarships. And for the players who excel, to allow them the opportunity to showcase Hong Kong on the World Stage, because I believe we have future PGA Tour, LPGA and Asian Tour winners in our midst.
Jonathan Wallett is Golf Development Director of the HKGA.
Leon D’Souza had a breakout year, with of course the best Hong Kong performance in the UBS Hong Kong Open
Ben Wong Photo courtesy of USGA
Mimi Ho -Photo courtesy of Fresno State Women’s Golf Team
Izzy Leung (Left) & Michelle Cheung - Daniel Wong