SINGAPORE - There is a new man at the helm of the Singapore Golf Association (SGA) and while Tan Chong Huat is keen to make his mark, his message is: evolution, not revolution.
It is an understandable stance, given he spent two years as vice-president to outgoing chief Ross Tan and had also been an executive board member since 2018.
Barely a day after taking the reins, Tan outlined his plans for the sport, which he acknowledged has faced stiff challenges in recent years with the Government taking back several golf courses at Raffles Country Club, Jurong Country Club and most recently Keppel Club.
To alleviate the situation, the 58-year-old has identified three main objectives for his four-year term: enhancing the Singapore golf ecosystem, high performance and strengthening the association’s financial position.
For Tan, one of the founding partners of RHTLaw Asia and RHT Group of Companies, it begins from the ground up with the introduction of a junior golfers inter-club league this year that will see them play in teams instead of as individuals.
He hopes that this will encourage clubs to continue developing junior golf at the club level.
His team will also look to continue the community engagement efforts of the previous team by bringing golf to community centres and schools, while also working with the various golf clubs to help them promote an environmental, social and governance approach for the golfing community.
Tan said: “If we can bring more people to golf, engage the community at large with what golf is about and (convince them) that golf is more a force of good rather than being perceived as an elitist sport, that would help.”
Under the previous leadership, Singapore won gold in the men’s team and individual events at the 2017 and 2019 SEA Games respectively. In this year’s edition, Aloysa Atienza claimed a silver in the women's individual competition.
There were other milestones such as Jaymie Ng's qualification for the US Girls' Junior Golf Championship.
These achievements are ones that Tan is looking to build on and he intends to strengthen the support system for the country’s professional golfers.
This includes making sure there are viable pathways to help them develop both on the golf course as well as within the industry.
He cited the example of former national golfer Jerome Ng, who later served as the SGA’s general manager before taking up a role at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (R&A) in Scotland. It was important, he added, “to keep raising the ceiling” for greater “mobility into better positions and opportunities”.
He is also looking to back rookie professionals in a bigger way, especially in terms of financial support and career advice.
While he stressed that the SGA is in a healthy financial position with $5.3 million in its reserves, the goal of strengthening finances was to enable more international events to be held in Singapore.
One such event is the 2025 World Amateur Team Championships (WATC), which Singapore has already submitted a bid to host.
The Republic had been slated to host the WATC, which involves teams of two to three golfers from over 70 countries, in 2020, but it was cancelled owing to the pandemic.
Tan said: “If we win it, it will be the first time that Singapore is hosting it so it will be inspiring for our younger players to compete with them.
“It’s strategic to put Singapore on the world map and it’s also our contribution to the international golfing fraternity.”