These teenage girls dream of golf conquests
First-time participants Erika, Jacqueline and Maisarah show guts and desire for HSBC event
As rookies, their chance of winning are as good as a Singaporean finishing higher than world No. 1 Jordan Spieth in this month's SMBC Singapore Open.
And the unfamiliarity of the course makes it even more difficult for the trio at the two-day 2016 HSBC Women's Champions qualifiers teeing off today.
Sentosa Golf Club's Serapong course, just voted by Golf Digest as the world's 58th best course, is a well-maintained but highly challenging one with hidden hazards that tests even the best.
Still, the fact that Erika Layson, Jacqueline Young and Maisarah Saadon had the courage to throw their names into the pot for a shot at the prestigious global event makes them winners.
Erika, 14, the baby of the 12 entrants vying for the one Singapore spot against the world's top 50 golfers at the US$1.4 ($1.98m) in March, is a precocious talent.
The Nanyang Girls High School student, armed with a 1.7 handicap index, already knows what winning is all about, having claimed the HSBC Youth Challenge five times.
"I just want to give it a go," said the charming girl, when asked what prompted her to compete.
She is into her eighth year playing a game which was introduced to her by her retired dad, Edwin, who is a 11 handicap index player.
Standing 1.57 metres, Erika drives the ball a handsome average of 190 metres, but her forte is "my iron play."
Erika, who sees Spieth and Lydia Ko as her idols, practises hard at the National Service Resort and Country Club, although she also frequents the Raffles Country Club with her coach-cum-dad.
She has played at Serapong "a few times", while Jacqueline and Maisarah had the first taste of the superb layout at practice yesterday.
Jacqueline, 16, a Singapore Sports School student, has also won many age-group tournaments.
But the 0.9 handicap index golfer is eyeing more glory, using the HSBC event as a launchpad to bigger events.
The admirer of Annika Sorenstam and Tseng Ya-ni knows that the competition at today's qualifier will be stiff as there are more seasoned players in the field.
But she is raring to "give it a go" with the encouragement of her businessman dad Jonathan, who sometimes plays with her at the Warren Golf and Country Club.
Maisarah, 19, a sport and leisure management student at Republic Polytechnic, sees the opportunity to play in the HSBC qualifiers "as a dream".
"I missed out last year as I was late with my entry but, with the encouragement of my dad and friends, I ensured that I got in this time," said the affable youngster.
Coach Nasaruddin Alias is a pro at Warren who has schooled the talented Maisarah with the finer points of the game for more than a year.
And dad Saadon Senari is her biggest admirer and motivator, the other being Singapore's No. 1 pro Mardan Mamat, who has adopted her at the Raffles Country Club.
Maisarah worships South Korean Choi Na Yeon and admires Adam Scott, and she is looking forward to following the former at the March event.
"Wouldn't it be great if I played alongside her," beamed Maisarah, hinting at the remotest possibility of her sneaking through the qualifiers.
THE LIST OF QUALIFIERS AND THEIR HANDICAP INDEXES:
- Jessica Ang (pro), Elizabeth Ang (-0.1), Callista Chen (1.1), Jen Goh (2.6), Koh Sock Hwee (pro), Erika Layson (1.7), Ashley Loh (2.4), Maisarah Saadon (2), Amanda Tan (0.4), Sarah Tan (0.7), Amelia Yong (pro), Jacqueline Young (0.9).