Golf: Nicklaus Chiam one step closer to becoming first Singaporean to get Korn Ferry Tour status

Nicklaus Chiam will be one of around 270 playing in the second stage of the Korn Ferry Tour Q-School at the Bear Creek Golf Club in Murrieta, California.
Nicklaus Chiam will be one of around 270 playing in the second stage of the Korn Ferry Tour Q-School at the Bear Creek Golf Club in Murrieta, California.PHOTO: SINGAPORE GOLF ASSOCIATION/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - He is named after legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus, and Singaporean Nicklaus Chiam is showing he's got some game with a string of fine results in the United States.

After emerging from the rigorous Korn Ferry Tour Q-School pre-qualifying and first stage which featured more than 1,200 players, the 25-year-old will be one of around 270 playing in the second stage at the Bear Creek Golf Club in Murrieta, California from Tuesday (Oct 19) to Friday.

Based on the 2019 format - the 2020 Q-School was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic - a top-20 finish at his event should see Chiam qualify for the Nov 4-7 Finals and become the first Singaporean to secure at least conditional status on the Korn Ferry Tour, the developmental tour for the United States PGA Tour.

The amateur has been playing golf in the United States since attending college at Washington State University in 2016. After graduating with a major in international business and marketing, he continued to play in local tournaments there with his sights set on turning pro.

A second-place finish at the Palo Verde Amateur was recorded in May.

He then became one of just 500 from a field of 8.680 golfers to progress to the US Open final qualifier in June.At Meadow Springs, he needed to be in the top two to make the major, but finished joint-eighth.

But that run set him up for a strong showing at the Korn Ferry Tour Q-School.

In September, he tied for fourth at the La Quinta pre-qualifier with a three-round eight-under 208.

Later in the month, he finished 15th at the first stage in Maricopa with a four-round eight-under 280 to make it to the second stage. Four other Singaporean pros - Koh Deng Shan, Gregory Foo, Abdul Hadi Uda Thith and Jesse Yap - did not advance from their respective first-stage events.

Chiam, who helped Singapore win the 2019 Putra Cup and a men's team silver at the 2019 SEA Games, said: "It was exciting yet nerve-racking at the same time. The first round of the first stage was most stressful as the conditions were tougher which made it more difficult overall.

"I have been fortunate enough to be able to stay in the US and continue practising and playing here. I'm definitely more motivated by my recent results because I feel like I'm on the right track towards being a better player.

"But I'm also trying to stay in the present as much as possible and focus on doing what I can at that point of time, and that is what I will continue to do for the second stage."

He also shared that getting tips remotely from national coach Matt Ballard has helped in his development.

"My ball striking has improved, which helped me commit better to a shot, resulting in lower scores," said Chiam.

"My short game improved a lot in 2020 because I was able to incorporate different types of shots around the green. I think my mentality of keeping things simple, focusing on one shot at a time, really helped as well."

Ballard pointed to Chiam's carry distance of around 280 metres, sound putting, and a level-headedness beyond his years as his strengths.

The 44-year-old Australian said: "His length off the tee is definitely above average in the amateur world and an advantage because he is able to take different lines off the tee and cut a lot of distance. He also deals well with adversity and brushes off poor shots better than most.

“He still continues to work on his bunker play, short game and scrambling ability but his overall game is not in question. It is a matter of whether he believes he belongs at a higher level. In Q-Schools, it all comes down on how one plays on that week, and I’m quite confident he will do well.”