Golf: All in the family as Kuk siblings Justin, Jillian aim for sporting success

National golfer Justin Kuk, 20, is aiming to turn professional and wants to follow in the footsteps of veterans like Mardan Mamat. PHOTO COURTESY OF SINGAPORE GOLF ASSOCIATION
Jillian Kuk, 16, has had to cut back on golf this year as she is taking the O levels but aims to balance studies and golf in the pursuit of sporting success. PHOTO COURTESY OF SINGAPORE GOLF ASSOCIATION

SINGAPORE - The Kuk family has been thriving in golf because of a conducive environment created by the patriarch Hun Yi, who has a legal and business background.

So critical thinking, strong reasoning and analytical skills have been the hallmarks of the 57-year-old former semiconductor contract negotiator with a global foundry company.

Applying those traits, he ensured that his three children "grew up through golf" from their pre-school days and picked up the virtues of the game such as integrity, honesty, character building, developing lifelong friendships and inculcating family bonding.

As a result, twins Justin and Jason, both 20 and leading amateur golfers, and Jillian, 16, who is in the national development squad, have grown up in an environment where Hun Yi, who is now retired, and wife Tricia engage themselves in a family setting pursuing golf as more than a pastime.

No doubt Tricia, who obtained her proficiency certificate within two days of practice, is playing less and less while Jason, who still holds an impressive 1.9 handicap index, has slowed down to social golf after being drafted into national service with the Singapore Police Force.

In fact, once Jason starts reading business at the Singapore Management University next year, his golf will suffer further. But Justin and Jillian see a brighter future in the game and want to do the Kuk family proud.

Justin, who is pursuing a diploma in sport and exercise science at Republic Polytechnic, is hell-bent on eventually becoming a golf professional because he believes that he has the aptitude and skills for a lucrative career.

The national golfer, who was in the gold-winning Putra Cup quartet in 2019, said: "I want to turn pro after my studies. I fully realise that it is a rocky road ahead, but with family support and the Singapore Golf Association's help, I want to focus on playing on the Asian Tour and graduate into entering bigger tournaments."

The plus-3 handicapper added: "My dad, who first introduced the game to me when I was four, knows that I am serious about this goal, and he is willing to spare no effort in helping me work towards that ambition."

As it is, golfing assignments have slowed down his academic chase at the Singapore Sports School (SSP), but dad Hun Yi, a member of Seletar Country Club and Warren Golf and Country Club with an 18-handicap, said: "If Justin wants to fulfil that golf ambition, I will go along with it all the way."

After playing with leading pros Mardan Mamat, Koh Dengshan and Gregory Foo in 18-hole rounds, Justin is further convinced that he should follow in their footsteps, having been ingrained with fresh perspectives and new facets of the pro game. Already, Justin has a pro regimen for training: practising five times a week, gym work thrice a week, playing 18-hole rounds twice a week and managing studies for fours hours on Mondays to Thursdays.

In academically driven Singapore, it is not often that parents offer their children the choice of sport over studies, but Hun Yi, a Level 3 rules official and vice-chairman at Sporting Parents Network, the SSP's volunteer parents outfit, is fully aware of the consequences.

However, he has complete faith in his level-headed, disciplined son who found motivation last week with his encouraging play at Sentosa Golf Club's challenging Serapong course where he returned a three-over 74 from the black tees on the final day of the FTAG Singapore Pro Series, playing alongside a largely pro field.

As for the eloquent three-handicapper Jillian, who is doing her O levels at Methodist Girls' School this year, it is a trim back on golf and more hours with studies in this crucial year.

However, she is sticking to her career objective "to excel in both by finding the optimal balance between the two, and to fulfil my potential in golf by playing (and improving) my strengths, which are my mental game, my short game and my putting".

Both Justin and Jillian have full faith in national coach Matt Ballard improving their respective games, but in dad Hun Yi, they have a pillar of strength and a competent advocate who can see the forest for the trees.

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