Spending time on the green is a passion for many DBers and the top local players, following in their parents’ footsteps, are starting young. Sam Agars reports.
While golf in Hong Kong and throughout many parts of Asia is viewed as an elitist sport due to the often astronomical cost of playing, it is more accessible here than some may think. Even in Discovery Bay where the only course is very much member-oriented and proud of it, there are opportunities for everyone to have a game – kids included.
Yes, Discovery Bay Golf Club (DBGC) has only 1,100 members and the chance of obtaining a membership is well beyond most people’s means, plus a visitor is looking at HK$2,300 a round on a weekday, or the mindboggling figure of HK$4,500 to play on a weekend. But the club offers reduced rates to members of the Discovery Bay Residents Golf Society (DBRGS) and it shows its commitment to young players by welcoming students to its driving range after school.
DB’s kid contenders
Although for most in DB golf is a social pursuit (with a competitive edge), there are many who take it seriously and have made a habit of shooting low rounds. DB is also proving itself to be quite the breeding ground for top young golfers, with 10-year-old Denzel Rai and 15-yearold Taichi Kho making some serious noise on the Hong Kong golf scene.
It was on the greens and fairways of the DBGC that young stars Denzel and Taichi learnt their trade, both introduced to the game at an early age by their fathers. Taichi began playing at the age of five-and-a-half and it soon became evident he had big things ahead. Ten years and millions of balls later and Taichi is considered amongst the best Hong Kong has to offer, despite his tender age.
“I really like the driving range and the short game area facility [at the DBGC],” Taichi says. “It’s a great place to practise [The club] has been really open and they’ve helped a lot of other juniors practise up there.”
Already in the Hong Kong national senior team, Taichi is, according to DBRGS president YB Rai, one of the best three golfers of any age here in Hong Kong. Crowned the overall boys champion at the Hong Kong Junior Open Championship (HKJOC) at Fanling in August, he has begun to play more and more overseas.
“This year my results have been very good,” Taichi says. “There was a tournament at Mission Hills in Shenzhen [the Jack Nicklaus Championship in early May], where I placed second in the overall standings. That was actually my personal best for a three day total.”
As a result of his win at the HKJOC, Taichi was invited to attend the prestigious World Golf Championship-HSBC Champions in Shanghai in November, where he received one-on-one tuition with some of the world’s top golfers.
The future is bright for Taichi and YB believes he has the talent to go all the way to the top, but for now education is still the priority and Taichi enjoys any chance to play with his dad Victor. “We have our battles, especially recently,” Taichi says. “It’s great, because whenever we go out on course, I get to spend time with him.”
Denzel and his father (YB) also play together at DBGC regularly and Denzel, who is in the Hong Kong junior squad and played in his first tournament in February, is also eyeing more play overseas. He too experienced success in the HKJOC in August, topping his nine to 10 years age group, and is aiming high having jumped to number three in the Hong Kong junior rankings.
“My dream is to win many more tournaments in Hong Kong and internationally,” Denzel says. “I would love to be a professional golfer.”
Taichi and Denzel – who are both Discovery College (DC) students – have benefitted significantly from the help of the DBGC and are on reduced-rate junior memberships at the club. The DBGC also allows other budding young golfers in DB to practise, but DC teacher (digital literacies coordinator and golf nut!) Joe Leithhead says it’s not like it used to be.
While prior management allowed DC to take students to play nine holes in the afternoon after school, now students only have access to the driving range, although club professionals remain very generous with their time. “It’s a real reward for the students in the golfing programme – a chance to put their newly acquired skills to the test,” Joe says. “We’re grateful to be able to access the practice facilities.”
Finding the fairway
While the DBGC rolls out the welcome mat for young players, kids have to wait until they turn 18 to join either the DBRGS or the Big Sai Wan (BSW). That said both societies are family orientated and both are intent on growing the game locally. December is an especially busy time for golf in DB, with both societies holding their season-ending events. The BSW Masters is on December 12 and the DBRGS is holding its Annual Championship on December 9.