Local junior golfers cut their teeth in the HSBC Youth Golf Challenge

Amanda Tan will be playing at the 2019 HSBC Women’s World Championship, after qualifying for the third time. (PHOTO: HSBC Women’s World Championship)

She will be the lone Singaporean battling in a formidable field of the world’s top women’s golfers at the HSBC Women’s World Championships this week at Sentosa Golf Club.

While few would expect Amanda Tan to win the tournament, to qualify for the elite event would be a highlight of the year for any budding local golfer nonetheless.

This will be the third time the 20-year-old is competing in the event, having also qualified in 2014 and 2017. And she told Yahoo News Singapore on Tuesday (26 February) that she had one of her first tastes of competitive golf in another HSBC event – the HSBC Youth Golf Challenge (HYGC).

A competition platform for young local golfers

The HYGC was set up in 2008, in a partnership between HSBC and Singapore Golf Association (SGA), with the aim of nurturing the next generation of golfers. Over the next decade, this partnership has provided a competitive platform for local golfers as young as 12 years old, and has made it affordable for them to enjoy the sport.

The annual competition originally comprised four legs of two rounds each, played among the various golf clubs in Singapore. It eventually evolved into three legs, with three rounds of golf in each leg to acquire World Amateur Golf Ranking points. The three legs are held during the school holidays in September, December and March, with two age divisions (12 to 14 years old, and 15 to 17 years old).

“It was one of the few junior events that was available back then. I was 12 when I first took part, and it was a great opportunity to test my skills against local juniors,” said Tan, who competed in three HYGC editions. “I remember I had a hole-in-one in my very first HYGC, so that was very memorable.

“More importantly, it taught me the value of being consistent, as you have to play well over four legs  of the HYGC to become the overall winner. You learn that golf is not a one-off thing, and you have to be at a consistently high level.

“I think the HYGC experience has helped me prepare better for competitions like the HSBC tournament, and also when I competed in the professional tour circuits in the last two years.”

Better sense of strengths and weaknesses

Edgar Oh, who became the youngest Singapore Open Amateur Championship winner when he clinched it in 2010 as a 14-year-old, also took part in the HYGC for five years, and credits the experience as a turning point in his golf career.

Now the chairman of HYGC’s organising committee, the 24-year-old Singapore Institute of Management student said, “I shot my best-ever round of golf in the HYGC, a 65 at the Laguna National in 2010. And when you’re competing four times a year with the best junior golfers in the country, you get a better sense of your strengths and weaknesses, and how much you need to improve.

“Besides being consistent, you also have to stay patient and disciplined to train for this competition. It definitely gave me an insight into the high standards that competitive golf demands.”

Singapore golfer Edgar Oh taking part in the HSBC Youth Golf Challenge. (PHOTO: Singapore Golf Association)

More junior golfers joining SGA’s associate clubs

The SGA noted that, with HSBC’s support, the HYGC has become a prominent competitive platform for all junior golfers – regardless of race, club membership or social status. In the past two years, the number of junior golfers in its associate clubs has grown from 200 to 405, with many of them coming from middle-income families and competing in the HYGC.

The association also uses the HYGC platform as one of the selection tournaments for national representation. In addition, it awards the overall winner with an overseas tournament.

SGA’s general manager Jerome Ng said, “Over the past decade, the HYGC has been pertinent to youth development through the game of golf. Golf develops character and instils great values. We look forward to continue our efforts to nurture future generation of champions, be it in life or in golf.”

Lasting friendships forged

For both Tan and Oh, the additional bonus of taking part in the HYGC was the lasting camaraderie forged among the competing junior golfers.

Tan said, “It was almost like a get-together among us young golfers, and we built some good friendships with one another, even though we were very competitive during the tournaments. Sometimes, when we were struggling with our golf, we would complain to one another, and maybe it helps to have someone to listen and support you.”

Oh added, “It was nerve-wracking when I first took part and faced so many competing golfers, because I had hardly played in a tournament before. It was also strange to compete with your friends and having to put your ‘game face’ on. But off the course, we are still good friends till this day.”

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