When you make the cut, but get paid just US$780

When Singapore professional golfer Choo Tze Huang competes overseas, he would typically share a room with fellow pros Koh Deng Shan, Johnson Poh or Quincy Quek.

"There were even a few times when there were three of us in a room, just so that we could save $10 a day on accommodation," said Choo, ranked 1,940th in the world.

The 30-year-old added: "As much as we want to make sure that we are comfortable enough (in our living environment overseas) so we can give our 100 per cent in tournaments, we have been in situations where we have no choice but to try to save as much as we can."

This is the stark reality of touring golf professionals in the lower rungs of the food chain. They have to find ways and means to cut their costs, and missing cuts could mean a significant financial setback.

Choo, Koh and Quek compete on the Asian Tour, where the prize money for a full-field event ranges from US$300,000 (S$409,000) to about US$1 million, and the lower-level Asian Development Tour (ADT) with purses from US$44,600 to US$160,000.

Unlike their peers in Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines, personal sponsorships - to offset flights and accommodation - are hard to come by.

Typically for most tournaments, only half the field - those who qualify for the weekend rounds - get a share of the total prize money. Even then, there is no guarantee that a pro can cover his costs just by making the cut.

Thailand's Pavit Tangkamolprasert earned US$780 for making the cut and finishing 66th in the US$300,000 Indonesia Open on the Asian Tour last month.

The 30-year-old Quek, who has a 10-month-old daughter, said: "Once you make the cut, every position has money tied to it. Psychologists will tell you not to think too much about it but there's just so many ways to it, especially when you play in big-money events."

The world No. 1,137 noted: "If you do well, you feel pretty good. But, when you make mistakes and drop shots, you could lose tens of thousands of dollars when you drop places."

Koh, ranked 1,436th, spends about $30,000 to $40,000 on airfares and hotels a year and the 29-year-old said that "trying to make ends meet is definitely on my mind... But you just have to deal with it".

A pro also has to book flights, submit competition entry forms, find coaches and training grounds all by himself.

When they were amateurs with the Singapore Golf Association, all administrative matters were handled for them.

SEA Games team gold medallist Marc Ong, who aims to turn pro next year, is preparing himself for the transition.

The 21-year-old said: "It is definitely going to be tough at the start. But you just have to accept it and adapt to the changes... My dad is going to support me (financially) a little bit, but I am trying to look out for sponsors on my own too. I do not wish to keep living off my dad."

Lim Say Heng

  • Additional reporting by Lester Wong
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2017, with the headline 'When you make the cut, but get paid just US$780'. Print Edition | Subscribe