Sports

Some joy for Koh

S'porean finishes 10 over, but she's seen signs of progress

Aiming not to finish last may represent a lack of ambition for some, but when you consider no Singaporean has avoided the wooden spoon against the elite field at the HSBC Women's Champions, one can forgive Koh Sock Hwee for not being downcast yesterday.

The 27-year-old local pro shot a three-over 75 in the final round at Sentosa Golf Club's Serapong Course for a 10-over total of 298, finishing joint-59th out of 63 golfers.

Her score was eight shots better than her previous best of 307 which she recorded last year and she picked up a US$3,987 ($5,481) cheque in just her second tournament as a pro.

This placed her alongside Colombia's Mariajo Uribe and ahead of former world No. 1 and five-time Major winner Tseng Ya-ni, sponsor's invite Melissa Reid and Austin Ernst who retired.

Koh said: "Mentally I'm stronger, I felt more steady, more comfortable and I felt like I belonged out there and could beat some of them.

"I couldn't have done it without the support from Sentosa Golf Club, who adopted me and allowed me to train here.

"I'm also heartened by the presence of family, friends and also passers-by who shouted, 'Go Singapore'!"

She won over the crowd when she sank a 45-foot birdie putt from the upper tier of the 18th green, her ninth hole. While she mostly struggled over the four days, there were some statistics for Koh to take encouragement from.

Despite being ranked lowest in driving distance (228.3 yards), she found 44 out of 56 fairways, which tied her for 11th, and she required an average of 29.8 putts per round, the same as champion Jang Ha Na.

Next up for Koh is a tournament in Vietnam later this month, before she heads to Thailand for more competitions.

She is also mulling over which qualifying school to go to - the Japan LPGA in July or the US LPGA in August.

Koh reached the second stage of the US LPGA Q-school last year, but needs to run through some financial considerations before she decides.

"Japan is closer to home, which makes it easier to commute even if I don't get full status," she said.

"If I do make it to the US LPGA, I would have to relocate there but, in Japan, I would also have to hire a translator, so I would have to work out the math.

"I spent $15,000 for each stage when I went to the US last year with my coach. It's expensive, but if I try for Japan, the second stage clashes with the first stage in the US, so I'll be able to do just one anyway."

- DAVID LEE

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