Singapore golfers are world amateur champions
Singapore win WAGC title by a massive 27 shots after finishing second in the last two years
Five local amateur golfers can now call themselves world champions, after a true team effort helped them win the World Amateur Golfers Championship (WAGC) team event in Durban, South Africa on Friday.
The quintet of Erwyn Lam (Division A, 0-5.4 handicap index), Melvin Choo (Division B, 5.5-10.4), Clara Ang (Division C, 10.5-15.4), Colin Tan (Division D, 15.5-20.4) and Lee Kian (Division E, 20.5-25.4) combined for a nett score of 1,121 after four rounds of competition, beating Vietnam by a whopping 27 strokes.
Each country's best four individual scores for each round are used to compute the team scores.
Into its 22nd edition this year, the WAGC offers different handicap divisions for golfers of varying abilities.
Singapore had finished second in the team event in the past two years.
Even though they had a commanding 18-shot lead over Vietnam after three rounds, the final round on Friday was not always that straightforward for Team Singapore.
The Republic's representatives in the lower handicap categories - Lam, Choo and Ang - returned with their worst rounds in the tournament after carding nett scores of 77, 80 and 74 respectively.
There was worry that it might prove costly in the team event, but Tan and Lee stepped up with rounds of 66 and 69 respectively to give the team a timely boost and secure the team title.
Tan, 49, whose nett score of 66 at Victoria Country Club was his best round of the trip as he finished second in his division with a 289 nett total, said: "I'm overjoyed with my score.
"After a disappointing round on Thursday, which caused me to drop to sixth in my category, I was determined to make up for it and fight my way back into the top three."
"While I was very focused, I also constantly reminded myself to relax and enjoy the final round," added the executive director. "Good individual scores also help to anchor the team to the top of the leaderboard, and I'm happy to have played my part."
There was more joy for Team Singapore as Lam and Lee picked up individual honours by winning their individual categories.
Analyst Lam, 27, who completed a wire-to-wire victory with an overall nett score of 290 despite a final-round 77 at Durban Country Club, said: "I started with a six-shot lead, and the challenge was to remain composed and not let emotions get the better of me.
"Unfortunately, I lost my swing in the first few holes and took a massive risk with a swing overhaul that somewhat saved my round.
"It was a constant physical and mental battle, but I'm glad to have managed to hang on for a decent round."
Finance manager Lee, 54, who played at Beachwood Country Club on Friday and finished with an overall nett score of 275, added: "I had a seven-stroke lead going into the final round, so I played conservatively in the drizzle, in which the wind also made for a one- or two-club difference.
"I teed off mostly with a three-wood to always find the fairways before trying to go three-on or four-on on the par-fours and par-fives respectively.
"I felt going for par or at worse bogey was a safe approach and I finished with an 89, which was 69 nett with my handicap of 20. And that was good enough to win."
It was not all just about the fierce battle for the team and individual titles.
The golfers will return with trophies and a trove of friendships and fond memories.
"It was a big team effort. We covered each other and contributed when it mattered. That was what separated us from the other teams," said businessman Choo, 46, who played his final round at Durban and placed seventh overall with a 298 nett total.
Adjunct lecturer Ang, 26, who finished her round at Victoria CC and placed second in her division with a 280 nett total, added: "It was also challenging playing in thick fog in some of the golf courses, but it was definitely a valuable experience.
"The competition was very stiff, but everyone was very friendly and I made many new friends from all over the world."
SPH Golf general manager Murali Subramaniam said: "Having finished second in the last two years, it is a fantastic feeling to have our team finally emerge as world champions.
"They led from day one and did incredibly well to cope with the pressure of playing in unfamiliar surroundings and against teams from all over the world. They did us proud!"