Green, green grass of home suits golfers to a T

FAMILIAR fairways are a golfer's best friend.

And Koh Sock Hwee certainly has that advantage when it comes to the venue of the SEA Games golf competition.

Singapore's top female amateur player estimates that, in the past six months alone, she has played close to 70 rounds at Sentosa Golf Club's Serapong course.

"That is what you call homeground advantage," said the 25-year-old, who was granted complimentary access to the club's facilities this year.

"Even small things, like where to angle your tee shots, make a huge difference out there."

First-timers at Serapong - as most of the Games' foreign competitors will be - may find it difficult to navigate around its zippy greens and thick rough.

Koh, on the other hand, tackled the 18 unforgiving holes with the world's best golfers at the HSBC Women's Champions tournament in March.

Although she finished last in the 63-strong field with a best round of three-over 75, valuable lessons were learnt.

"As the only Singapore player, it was a good experience to prepare myself for the pressure of performing in front of your home crowd," said the National University of Singapore graduate.

"Each time I play here, I discover new things about the kind of shots that are possible and otherwise."

It will be Koh's fourth - and final - Games appearance as she plans to turn professional this year.

She is the veteran of the Singapore women's team at this Games.

Rising talent Amanda Tan - in her second appearance - is just 16 while debutante Jen Goh is 20.

They returned from the prestigious Queen Sirikit Cup in Hong Kong last week. Against Asia's finest amateurs, Singapore finished last out of 13 teams - 33 shots adrift of winners South Korea.

"It didn't go as we planned but the three of us spent quality time working together and fine-tuning our strategy, which will come in handy at the SEA Games," said Tan, who has taken a year off studies at the Singapore Sports School.

Four golds are at stake at the SEA Games - the men's and women's teams as well as individual titles.

Singapore's best result consisted of a gold, a silver and a bronze in 1989.

The action tees off from June 9 to 12, with Thailand heavily fancied to sweep the top honours.

Their women bagged gold at last year's Incheon Asian Games, with the men taking home the bronze.

Singapore's Marc Ong, however, insists that he and his compatriots are not going to be a walkover.

The 19-year-old is riding a purple patch, boosted by a wire-to-wire victory at the Malaysian Amateur Open Golf Championship in Sarawak last month.

He followed that up with a creditable sixth-placed finish at the Saujana Amateur Championship in Kuala Lumpur last week.

"I'm hitting the ball well and giving myself a good look (for birdies on) the greens," the Republic Polytechnic graduate said ahead of his third Games outing.

"Playing on home turf, I believe the time has come for Singapore golfers to deliver at the SEA Games."

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