The beginning of the end of Lam Chih Bing's golf career arrived more than a year ago.
With three holes remaining of his second round at the 2015 Resorts World Manila Masters, he was struggling with his game and staring at his sixth missed cut of the season. That was when he decided enough was enough.
"Even if I had made it, grinding out another two rounds over the weekend was the last thing I wanted to do," he told The Straits Times yesterday. "That was when the first thoughts of retirement surfaced, and they became much stronger this year."
He played two more Asian Tour events - January's SMBC Singapore Open and April's Panasonic Open in Japan - before confirming his conviction to quit the professional game.
He turns 40 today and, after a 17-year career on the fairways, is welcoming a change of scenery in the urban jungle that is Raffles Place.
Who knows how different my life would have been had I won that day. It was a very big event with a world-class field.
'' LAM CHIH BING, on missing out on winning the US$5 million Singapore Open in 2008 despite entering the final round in joint-second place.
A holder of an MBA from the University of Leicester and a finance degree from the University of Arizona, he joined international brokerage firm Tradition in June and is working full-time as an energy derivatives broker.
With two children aged four and eight, part of Lam's decision was fuelled by a desire for financial stability. The one-time Asian Tour winner may have earned US$840,832 (S$1.22 million) in prize money since 2004, but won just US$8,580 last season.
He said: "I probably could have played for a few more years and tried to get my game back to where it was, but I felt time was running out for me to enter the corporate world.
"To be honest, after my daughter was born (in 2012), my commitment wavered and I didn't practise as hard as I wanted to spend more time with my family."
Injuries have also troubled him. The long-hitting Lam (he averaged almost 290 yards off the tee in his Asian Tour career) suffers aches in his left knee and has plantar fasciitis - tissue inflammation at the bottom of both his feet - which requires him to take anti-inflammatory medication before playing.
Yet the greatest pain for Lam, who competed in three British Opens, making the cut in the 2008 edition - the only Singaporean to achieve that feat - and represented Singapore in five World Cups alongside Mardan Mamat, comes from missed opportunities.
He was in a good position to win the 2008 Singapore Open as he headed into the final round of the US$5 million tournament in the final group, joint-second and three shots off the lead. But he stumbled to an eight-over 79 and ended tied-18th as Jeev Milkha Singh triumphed at Sentosa Golf Club.
Said Lam, once ranked as high as world No. 172: "Who knows how different my life would have been had I won that day. It was a very big event with a world-class field."
He made up for that disappointment weeks later by capturing his maiden Asian Tour title in Thailand at the season-ending US$750,000 Volvo Masters of Asia, joining Mardan as the Republic's only winners on the multi-million dollar circuit.
But Lam never scaled such heights again. Now ranked world No. 1,185, he has won eight other lower-tier tournaments but conceded that it was a poor return on the bigger stage from someone with his potential.
Compatriot and five-time Asian Tour winner Mardan agreed and said: "Chih Bing was a fantastic ball-striker and had such power with his driver. It's a shame he didn't win more tournaments.
"He clearly had the ability but sometimes suffered from inconsistency."
Lam, who was introduced to the game when he was 10, insisted that he would remain involved in the local scene even as he transitions into a social golfer.
He is part of the Singapore Golf Association's training and selection sub-committee and said: "We have talented youngsters and it's time for them to step up and prove themselves.
"I'm still passionate about the game and want to help in any way I can. Golf has given me so much and the journey has been very rewarding. I have no regrets."