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Golfing against the grain

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Our Sporting Hero. My Neighbour. Koh Sock Hwee.

Golf is not what most would consider an everyday sport – not locally, at least. People hardly saunter into community clubs to strike balls with iron clubs like they normally would with table tennis paddles.

Indeed, with the swanky HSBC Women’s Champions being one of the most important golf tournaments on our local sporting calendar, it is difficult not to associate the sport with elite foreign players – or distinctly sedentary and wealthy middle-aged people.

Koh Sock Hwee, however, debunks all of these stereotypical images. Competitive, athletic, and every bit a home-grown talent, the 25-year-old top local amateur golfer hopes to bring the sport to the masses.

Having won this year’s HSBC Women’s Champions Host Country Qualifying Tournament, she secured a spot, for the second time, as the nation’s sole representative at the HSBC Women’s Champions. Despite being the only amateur to play in this year’s meet, she proceeded to swing her way to the best showing ever from a Singaporean competitor since the tournament’s inception in 2008.

Speaking of her experiences at the prestigious competition, she enthused: “I was very nervous on the first day, but subsequently I really enjoyed it.”

“I played with good players. It really showed the different standards, of them [playing professionally on the tour] week in and week out, and me playing them once in a long time. There’s definitely a difference, but I learnt what I have to work on or what I have to get used to in order to bring my game to the next level.”

The SEA Games veteran has competed in three World Amateur Team Championships and also holds several local championship titles; these include the 2013 Singapore National Amateur Championship and the 2014 Singapore Ladies Golf Association Amateur Open.

A fiercely competitive individual, Sock Hwee picked up the sport at the age of 11, having gotten hooked while watching her father’s weekly sessions at the driving range. That sense of passion fuelled her drive to keep improving.

“I really enjoy playing competitive golf, I get a thrill out of it, and I just like to compete. When I realised I was a little good at it, I decided that maybe I could pursue it further,” she revealed.

However, Sock Hwee does not play merely to satiate her own desire to compete. Sharing her hopes to develop the local golf scene by exposing more young people to it, she considers the association of the sport with moneyed types or businessmen an inaccurate one.

“There have been some youth golf programmes that reach out to students. I think it’s good because more people will get a chance to try it and they’ll know that it’s actually not that inaccessible [due to cost concerns]. There are always public golf courses like Marina Bay, where you can just head out and play. You don’t necessarily need to own a membership,” she explained.

“I think maybe if I become somebody good and influential in 10 years time, I can [make a difference],” she added.

It appears that Sock Hwee is well on her way to achieving this. After the 28th SEA Games, the determined athlete plans to turn professional, taking her golfing career to even greater heights.

“I’m really looking forward to it. It’s such an uncertain step, but I feel ready,” she quipped.

Presently, though, Sock Hwee is excited to compete in her final SEA Games. With it being held on home ground this year, the competition looks set to be a significant swansong for the rising star.

“In Singapore, for golf, we don’t have many events, maybe two or three events in a year. The rest are played overseas, and with SEA Games being such a big thing, I hope there’ll be a lot of people who come to watch and support us along the way. I really want to end on a good note,” she expressed.

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