WITH four SEA Games silver medals in his trophy cabinet, golfer Johnson Poh has been one of Singapore's most successful amateurs. But it is as a touring professional that the 23-year-old hopes to leave his mark next.
He has submitted his application to join the Singapore Professional Golfers' Association and should make his pro debut at next month's $25,000 Boustead Golf Open held at Raffles Country Club.
Outings at the Asian Tour's Vascory Classic and the second-tier Asian Development Tour's PGM Northport Glenmarie Championship in August have also been pencilled in, though his participation is reliant on getting special invites for both.
RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
Johnson had a work ethic second to none... He hits the ball high and long and, with that ball flight, he can get the ball to land softly on the greens.
- Andrew Welsford, former national coach, on Johnson Poh
Playing in the big leagues is nothing new to Poh, who picked up the game at the age of 10. He was only 16 when he qualified for the 2007 Singapore Open.
He said: "This has always been a dream of mine to become a pro golfer.
"I'm looking very hard for sponsors as I have to cover all my expenses on my own, so realistically this year I can probably play in six or seven events and gain as much experience as possible."
To supplement his income, he will also work part-time for his father Ah Hai, a teaching pro at Mandai Executive Golf Course.
Poh came within a whisker of a historic SEA Games gold medal earlier this month but lost to Natipong Srithong in the play-off for the men's individual title.
Nevertheless, he drew positives from that defeat as he closed with a four-under 68 for the clubhouse lead before the Thai eventually matched his overall score.
"It showed me that I have the game to compete, although the mental aspects still need work," said Poh, during one of his practice sessions last week at Seletar Country Club.
Commitment is not a problem for the 1.83m-tall Poh, noted former national coach Andrew Welsford, now based in Sydney.
He said: "Johnson had a work ethic second to none. He was always the first one at training and his desire to succeed is his biggest strength."
No wonder then that the Republic's No. 1 golfer Mardan Mamat is Poh's inspiration.
Said the Auckland University of Technology graduate, who is at the range six days a week when it opens at 7am: "Mardan's 47 and still winning tournaments. There's no secret, just a lot of hard work and patience."
As a long hitter who averages 265m off the tee, he uses his power to his advantage. During the four SEA Games rounds at Sentosa Golf Club, he played the par-fives in 14-under.
"He hits the ball high and long and, with that ball flight, he can get the ball to land softly on the greens. He has all the weapons to succeed," added Welsford.
Unable to play or practise during his two-year national service stint, it has taken Poh almost two years to rebuild his game.
He was down but also determined. He said: "That was a tough period for me. I lost my touch and my short game was horrible. But everything has come back and I can't wait to start the next chapter of my career."