Tiffany eyes top-40 finish
Hong Kong amateur golfer ready to rub shoulders with Lydia Ko and Co.
Golf's Olympic return has been hit by a host of withdrawals but, for Hong Kong amateur Tiffany Chan, reaching the Rio Games is a dream come true.
The 22-year-old booked her ticket by finishing 56th in the Olympic rankings, giving her the chance to compete against the leading lights of the women's game.
"I am really honoured to play in the Olympics as it is the highest stage any athletes could get to," Chan told AFP in Hong Kong.
The university student is one of three amateurs to qualify for Rio, which will feature 60-strong men's and women's competitions as golf returns to the Games after a 112-year absence.
Top men's players like Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy have pulled out, with some citing concerns over the mosquito-borne Zika virus which can cause birth defects if it infects pregnant women.
But few of the women golfers have voiced such concerns, and Chan said dropping out never even crossed her mind.
"I have no plans to set up a family now, so I am not too worried, and I think it's a must to take part since I am given the chance," she said.
Chan first encountered golf when her father, a building contractor, took her to a public range in a suburb of densely populated Hong Kong when she was six.
Unlike many Asian families who spend big on their children's golf careers, Chan said her parents had no ambitions for her to become a top player.
"It was more a family hangout on weekends. We just paid HK$6 ($1.04) per hour to play at a bay," she said.
Later, Chan was talent-spotted by officials of Hong Kong's junior golfer development programme, who sent her to compete in youth events overseas.
With limited access to the financial hub's expensive golf clubs, she earned a scholarship to attend university in the United States, where she trains.
"When I was younger, there was not much opportunity for me to practise in real ranges. This is my weakness, so I need to work harder," she said.
Chan will face the world's best in Rio, including Lydia Ko from New Zealand and South Korea's Park InBee.
She hopes to finish in the top 40, but said her main aim was just to "learn" from the professionals around her.
"There are 57 professionals. To enter the Olympics as an amateur is already a difficult thing. I just want to learn through the Games," she said with a wide smile.
After university, Chan is planning to turn professional and embark on a career, which she hopes will promote the sport in Hong Kong.
"Not many people play golf in Hong Kong... (but) usually when there is an outstanding player, then the sport could get a big boost," she said. - AFP.
“I have no plans to set up a family now, so I am not too worried, and I think it’s a must to take part since I am given the chance.”
— Tiffany Chan, on not being worried about the Zika virus