Koh embarks on new dream

Koh Sock Hwee became Singapore’s first female golfer to win a medal at the biennial SEA Games in 24 years last month.
Koh Sock Hwee became Singapore’s first female golfer to win a medal at the biennial SEA Games in 24 years last month. ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

She heads to California for Q school in bid to become first Singaporean to join LPGA Tour

She made history at last month's SEA Games as Singapore's first female golfer to win a medal at the biennial Games in 24 years.

Buoyed by that feat, Koh Sock Hwee has set her sights even higher as she attempts to become the first Singaporean to play on the US-based LPGA Tour.

The 25-year-old leaves for California today - also her first trip to America - and will embark on her final preparations ahead of the Aug 6-9 qualifying school first stage at the Mission Hills Country Club.

She will play in two warm-up events on the domestic SunCoast Pro Golf Tour, both held at Mission Hills, over the next fortnight to get herself acquainted with the layout.

Said Koh, whose bronze effort was the first since Kee Bee Khim's silver at the 1991 Manila Games: "The SEA Games was a big boost but that journey has ended and I'm really motivated about beginning this new one and trying to make it as a professional golfer."

PERSONAL CHALLENGE

I'm definitely more secure in my game than I was a year ago.

I love to compete and to challenge myself to see how far I can go.

KOH SOCK HWEE Singapore golfer

Chasing her dreams will not come cheap though. Registration alone for the first round of qualifying is US$2,500 (S$3,413). Koh estimated her total expenses - including car and house rental - for the three weeks she is Stateside will set her back at least $15,000.

There are three stages of qualifying. The top 100 finishers of the first round move into Stage 2, which is held in Florida in October.

The top 80 from there will head into December's final round to battle for membership in the LPGA .

Even getting as far as the third stage would earn Koh playing privileges on the second-tier Symetra Tour, which has 23 events and a total purse of US$2.74 million.

And that would represent an ideal stepping stone towards the ultimate goal of competing on the LPGA Tour, said Koh.

Former national coach Andrew Welsford will fly from his Sydney base to caddy for her at next month's qualifier. He believes his former charge finally has the game to hold her own against the elite.

As the only amateur in a 63-woman field, Koh finished last in February's HSBC Women's Champions tournament but her 19-over 307 total was the best performance by a local since the inaugural edition in 2008.

Said Welsford: "Sock hits the ball tee-to-green as good as most professionals which was evident when she played the HSBC but she still needs to learn to score well when she is struggling during a competitive round."

While not a powerful driver of the ball, the 1.62m-tall Koh still averages 215m off the tee and has been playing off the blue tees during her training at Sentosa Golf Club to help her cope with the longer US courses.

Her short game, particularly her bunker play, remains a work in progress, she admitted.

"But I'm definitely more secure in my game than I was a year ago. I love to compete and to challenge myself to see how far I can go."

For Koh, the path to the top is a long journey but she knows it begins with a single step.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2015, with the headline 'KOH EMBARKS ON NEW DREAM'. Print Edition | Subscribe