Singapore Golf Association president Bob Tan steps down; SNOC VP Low Teo Ping throws in challenge

Bob Tan, who has to relinquish the SGA presidency after three two-year terms, leaves it in a strong financial position and with two silvers and two bronzes from last year's home SEA Games.
Bob Tan, who has to relinquish the SGA presidency after three two-year terms, leaves it in a strong financial position and with two silvers and two bronzes from last year's home SEA Games. PHOTO: SINGAPORE GOLF ASSOCIATION

Sailing and rugby veteran facing Ross Tan for top post as Bob Tan steps down after 6 years

Veteran sports administrator Low Teo Ping could become the first man to helm three different national sports bodies after he threw his name into the hat for the soon-to- be vacant presidency of the Singapore Golf Association (SGA).

Nominations closed on June 20 and the 71-year-old, who is Sentosa Golf Club's president, will face Jurong Country Club (JCC) captain Ross Tan for the top post.

Low, the former sailing chief who now heads the Singapore Rugby Union, said he had been asked by members of the golfing fraternity to contest the post, but added that given his other commitments, he was still unsure about his decision.

He is also a Singapore National Olympic Council vice-president and will be Singapore's chef de mission for the Rio Olympics in August.

Incumbent Bob Tan, 63, has served three two-year terms - the maximum allowed under SGA's constitution - and its 13-member governing council will elect his replacement at the July 20 annual general meeting.

He cited greater club cooperation, bringing women's golf into the fold and a clutch of silverware at last year's Singapore SEA Games as some of the highlights of his tenure.

He also leaves an association with annual revenue of $1.5 million and about $4 million in reserves, both totals significantly higher than when he took over in 2010.

Under his watch, the inter-club competition was changed from strokeplay to the more exciting matchplay format and lengthened to 13 legs across six months to encourage more interaction between the various clubs, with each required to host a round.

The SGA also partnered the Singapore Ladies Golf Association - offering two seats on the SGA's executive committee - and poured resources into the women's team. Koh Sock Hwee's individual SEA Games bronze was the first medal by a local female golfer since 1991.

While a Games gold has remained elusive for the men, there have been other successes, with four Putra Cup trophies (three individual and one team) plus Gregory Foo's invite to the prestigious Bonallack Trophy against Europe in March as part of the Asia-Pacific team.

Besides the national squad for boys and girls, there is now a development team acting as a feeder set-up, and all enjoy centralised training up to five times weekly.

Bob Tan, the chairman of Jurong Engineering and the Institute of Technical Education board of governors, said: "We've come a long way and while I'm pleased with the things we've accomplished, there's always more that can be done.

"In Singapore, golf is still not cheap, is seen as elitist and we have limited space. If we don't bring in more kids, the game will definitely die here. So that's the challenge for the next team."

Ross Tan, who sits on the SGA's exco and chairs its community engagement team, agreed that youth development was crucial and a priority. The median age of his JCC members is 55 and that does not bode well for the future, said the 59-year-old businessman.

"Golf can be hard to get into with the rules, lessons, equipment but we have to find ways around this. We need to make golf more fun and appealing to children."

Regardless of the outcome of the election, Low called for greater synergy in the community that extends to teaching and playing professionals and equipment manufacturers and golf businesses.

He said: "By leveraging on this golfing ecosystem, we can work together to grow the sport in a constructive and inclusive manner."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2016, with the headline 'Snoc VP Low may swing round to golf'. Print Edition | Subscribe