Huge congratulations to young DB golfers Taichi Kho and Denzel Rai, who were both crowned winners this month at the prestigious Hong Kong Junior Open Golf Championship in Fanling.
15-year-old Taichi and 10-year-old Denzel, both students at Discovery College, were up against fierce competition at what is arguably Hong Kong’s biggest junior tournament, attracting players from across Asia. The youngsters put on a fantastic display, with Denzel topping the scoreboard in the Boys nine – 10 category, and Taichi being crowned overall champion.
The boys both developed a love for the game at an early age. Inspired by their fathers, Taichi began playing at just 5-and-a-half, while Denzel first picked up a golf club aged six. Fast forward a few years, and their dads are still right by their sides, encouraging them all the way. Ask him who is the better golfer, he or his father Victor, and Taichi laughs. “We have our battles, especially recently. It’s great, because whenever we go out on course, I get to spend time with him.”
Having entered his first competitive tournament aged eight, Taichi is now carving a name for himself on the international scene. “Recently I’ve been playing more overseas,” he says. “Thailand, the States, and I’m going to Singapore next month. This year my results have been very good. There was a tournament in China about three months ago where I placed second in the overall standings. That was actually my personal best for a three-day total.”
Denzel’s first tournament was on February 21 this year in Clearwater Bay. Impressively, he came equal first, losing out narrowly on the countback. Since then he has placed second in some of the smaller competitions and came overall third in the Nick Faldo Juniors in July.
In the run up to August’s Open, Denzel’s father, Uncle Russ owner YB Rai, spent time helping his son to mentally prepare for the challenge ahead. “I trained him on how to tackle a problem and motivate yourself,” says YB. “That was the biggest influencing factor.” And it clearly worked. As a result of his win, Denzel has moved from fifth to third in the rankings and has a bright future ahead. “My dream is to win many more tournaments in Hong Kong and internationally,” he says. “I would love to be a professional golfer.”
Despite the wins, the tournament was in fact far from plain sailing. After a 4.30am wake-up call on the first day, Taichi’s tee-off time was delayed due to rain and practice wasn’t going to plan. “Nothing was really going well,” he confides, “so I had to make a lot of changes on the driving range. It definitely wasn’t a smooth ride!” But when play finally got underway, Taichi got into his stride. “I felt really confident,” he says. “Going out there on the last day, leading the tournament, was a real confidence booster for me.”
As the leading local player, Taichi can now looking forward to attending the World Golf Championship-HSBC Champions in Shanghai later this year – part of his prize for winning the tournament – where he will enjoy one-on-one tuition with one of the world’s top golfers. Taichi doesn’t know who it will be yet, but is excited to find out. “It’s going to be a great experience,” he grins. “I get to see the best players from all around the world. They are my idols, so it will be great just spending time with them and seeing how they play. I can learn [a lot] from them.”
Back at home, both players and their fathers are quick to recognise the opportunities afforded to young, local players by the Discovery Bay Golf Club. “I really like the driving range and the short game area facility,” says Taichi. “It’s a great area to practise. [The club] has been really open and they’ve helped a lot of other juniors practise up there.” YB also credits their coach, Mark Mossip, with helping the boys progress.
So, what’s next for the young prodigies? More tournaments, that’s for sure, and likely plenty more trophies. Watch this space…
Taichi with his many trophies
Images courtesy of Victor Kho and YB Rai.