It is difficult to stay negative in Christabel Goh’s presence.
Singapore’s first professional female golfer readily acknowledged to Yahoo! Singapore in an interview Wednesday that she was “just making up the numbers” at this year’s star-studded HSBC Women’s Champions. But Goh went on to declare her determination to deserve her place in the future.
“There’s a reason why I’m not on the LPGA tour with those girls,” the 24-year-old said. “But that’s where I want to be, and you can only go up so that’s where I’m planning to go.”
Now based in Orlando, Goh competes on the Symetra, a secondary tour of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). She practices up to seven hours a day, six days a week – a regime that helped her qualify for the HSBC tournament after topping local preliminaries last month.
But the next few days will present far sterner contest. World number one Yani Tseng and defending champion Angela Stanford are amongst the elite field tussling for their share of the S$1.7mil kitty dangling over Sentosa Golf Club’s Serapong Course.
In the five-year history of the event, every Singaporean representative has consistently finished bottom-place.
“I don’t want to worry about position,” said Goh, who was forced to dilute her training preparations due to a flu bug. “I just worry about playing as good as I can play. The rest should take care of itself.”
This isn’t the first time the petite golfer will fly the flag for Singapore – she qualified in 2011 too, mere months after going professional.
It is a decision Goh looks back on without regret.
“When I started, I was the only girl. Nobody knew what to do with me,” she laughed. “I was the first one to say, ‘Hey I wanna turn pro,’ and they were like, ‘Oh, we have to set a course for her’.”
But Goh, who started playing golf at ten, believes that change is afoot in Singapore.
“Golf is getting bigger. I can see a lot more children and young adults in the game,” she enthused. “Slowly but surely, the government is recognising there are other things Singaporeans can do.”
In supporting Goh’s decision to move to America, her parents clearly saw something in her – and she remains thankful for that. Describing family as her “rock”, Goh spoke of “marathon Skype sessions” with her older sister during long and lonely nights abroad.
Family was difficult to leave behind when she embarked on her career – and so was local cuisine, Goh said.
“I’m still very much a Singaporean,” she chuckled. “I need my food. The food is the most important.”
Giving back to her native country is important to Goh, who wants to help others following in her footsteps.
“If anybody asks me for advice on turning professional, I know what to tell them,” she said. “I feel like I can be the big sister they need, or at least give them some wise words!”
Teaching and mentoring are future options that Goh has considered. “My life will always involve golf in some way, shape or form. I love this game too much to give it up.”
For now, she hopes to return regularly to play the HSBC Women’s Champions, and someday “with another Singaporean in the field”.
Her optimism is rivaled only by a quiet resolve, evident as she reestablished the target in her sights: “My main goal is to make it to the LPGA and I’ll work towards that.”