SINGAPORE – A foray to the United States triggered by a pandemic-hit competition calendar has proven to be a blessing for Singapore golfer Amanda Tan.
For two years, Tan, who turned professional in 2017, was unable to compete on the Taiwan and China LPGA Tours after Covid-19 put a halt to the events.
During the break, the 23-year-old continued to work on her game and ventured into coaching but with both tours still on hold at the start of 2022, she and fellow Singaporean Koh Sock Hwee chose to play on the 15-stop Women’s All Pro Tour (WAPT) in the US.
Going into the tour with the intention of gaining experience, Tan went one better when on Sunday, she became the first Singaporean to earn a card for the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Epson Tour, the second tier of the women’s professional circuit in the US.
Tan said: “It’s my first time playing the LPGA Q-school, I just wanted to go there and see what happens. But when I got into week two of Q-series, it’s either you get Epson or LPGA Tour card. It’s a little bit disappointing I didn’t get it but overall it was a really good run for me, I played well.
“Playing on the Epson Tour is the next step for me to play in the US so it’ll be a good experience for me to learn and get a feel of what it’s like to play on something that’s a bit closer to the LPGA.”
After taking the first few weeks to adjust to different weather and green conditions on the WAPT, Tan won her first event at the FCA Women’s Championship in April, topping the field to take home the winner’s cheque of US$10,000 (S$13,600).
She finished the season with two wins to place third in the standings, earning her exemption into the 2022 LPGA Qualifying Tournament Stage II, the second of three stages to qualify for the leading LPGA Tour.
She faced a slight hiccup when Hurricane Ian saw Stage II of the 2022 LPGA Q-School postponed by a month, and she was unsure if she should stay in Singapore or travel to the US. But she eventually returned with her friend, Thai golfer Wad Phaewchimplee.
She then made it to the LPGA Q-Series, an eight-round grind that was held in Alabama in early December. The top-45 and ties at the LPGA Q-Series earned status for the LPGA Tour.
Tan missed out as she finished 70th on a two-over 572 total. Instead, she qualified for the US-based Epson Tour, which in 2022 featured 21 tournaments with prize purses ranging from US$200,000 to US$335,000.
In 2022, Sweden’s Linnea Strom won the money list after pocketing US$119,190 on the Epson Tour. The top 10 golfers also earned fully exempt cards for the 2023 LPGA Tour.
Tan’s achievement is a huge milestone for both the women’s and local golf scene. Koh, who turned professional in 2016, was one of the Republic’s top female amateurs and tried unsuccessfully several times to qualify for the LPGA Tour.
No local male golfer has played on either the US-based PGA Tour or its developmental Korn Ferry Tour. Mardan Mamat competed on the European Tour for several seasons and also won five Asian Tour events, while Lam Chih Bing made the cut at the 2008 British Open and won once on the Asian Tour.
Looking back at the past year in the US, Tan said: “I’ve learnt so much playing down here and off the golf course as well – having a host family (to stay with during the competitions), that’s not something we have back home or in China.
“They’re really welcoming of us and everyone on the WAPT was really welcoming and friendly and we started becoming friends, which was really nice. The whole experience there was something I enjoyed.”
Tan, a bronze medallist with the women’s team at the 2015 SEA Games, left school when she was 16 to head to Australia and pursue her dream of playing the sport professionally.
A few months after making her professional debut at the 2017 HSBC Women’s World Championship, Tan got her first win at the BridgeCC CLPGA Beijing Heritage, a China LPGA event.
She may have missed out on the sport’s biggest tour but for now, she is looking forward to her Epson Tour debut.
She said: “I would want to go out there and just take in as much as I can, enjoy the whole experience and learn along the way. I don’t think I’m going to put a target or score goal... I’m going to take it one step at a time, keep learning and soaking in everything.”