WHILE the rest of his peers ply their trade on the Asian and Asean Tours, golfer Quincy Quek has opted to chase his American dreams in China.
Since last year, Quek, once Singapore's most promising amateur, has been playing full-time on the recently-launched PGA Tour China and is looking to build on a creditable debut campaign.
2009 The year Quincy Quek turned professional
10 He started playing golf aged 10, after being introduced to the game by his father
5 He has scored a hole-in-one five times, two of which happened exactly 365 days apart.
He made the cut in nine of the 10 events with three top-10 finishes, earning 218,490 yuan (S$47,258) to place 16th on the Order of Merit for the inaugural season.
The top-five finishers earn exemption into the United States-based Web.com Tour while the next five gain entry into the final round of qualifying school for the US$16.75 million (S$22.50 million), 25-stop second-tier circuit, which is a rung below the prestigious PGA Tour.
Said Quek, the only Singaporean competing full-time in China: "My ultimate goal is to play in the US and this offers me the best chance to get there. It was disappointing to come close and not succeed but it hasn't discouraged me from trying again."
TAKING ANOTHER SWING
My ultimate goal is to play in the US and this offers me the best chance to get there.
It was disappointing to come close and not succeed but it hasn't discouraged me from trying again.
- Singapore golfer Quincy Quek on his first PGA Tour China season
There were also plenty of positives to draw from last year.
It was financially his most productive season since turning professional in 2009, with more than $100,000 in prize money earned.
He recorded his best result on the Asian Tour when he finished fourth in December's Indonesian Open and collected US$37,500, the biggest pay cheque of his career.
It was also significant for matters outside the ropes after the 28-year-old married English teacher Celine Tay in December.
Noted Quek: "I'm probably more settled now and also more focused on what I want to achieve in my career."
In five years on the Asian Tour before switching to China, he made the cut in 25 of 62 events and earned just over US$115,000.
His results last term in China have guaranteed him full playing privileges for this campaign.
He remains confident of overcoming a slow start - a tied-37th at the Buick Open in March was his highest finish from three events - when the tour resumes in August.
Quek, whose sole professional win came three years ago at the Asian Development Tour's Orchard Golf Championship in the Philippines, has been using the three-month, mid-season break to tweak his swing.
His club face is too open during his takeaway and that has been affecting his ball-striking and accuracy, noted Quek after training yesterday at Tanah Merah Country Club's driving range.
"Thankfully, most of the fairways in China are much wider compared to the Asian Tour and suit my eye better," he added.
Playing in China - he is based in Singapore and flies there when necessary - has been a learning experience.
His expenses, for one, are higher. The 12 tournaments in China have prize money of around $260,000 each, which is lower than the minimum US$300,000 offered at Asian Tour events.
The entry fee - US$250 versus US$70 - is also higher.
While there are budget options for airfare and accommodation at Asian Tour tournaments, the cost of travelling to and staying in China is greater.
With a 20 per cent tax on winnings, one has to finish inside the top 15 to break even.
There is also the unexpected issue of cheating to contend with.
Chinese golfer Zhang Xinjun, then the PGA Tour China's leading money-winner, was banned for six months last July for wrong scores on his scorecard.
Such breaches of etiquette are unfortunately par for the course in China, noted Quek.
"Most guys are honest but sometimes it happens and you just have to be alert," he said. "It can get a bit tiring but my dream has always been to play in the US and this gets me closer to it."