After just three tournaments this year, a chance of Olympic glory postponed and two weeks alone in quarantine, golfer Tiffany Chan could be forgiven for feeling sorry for herself.
Instead, Hong Kong’s first LPGA Tour player is sporting a broad grin and taking the positives from the game’s COVID-19 shutdown, determined to establish herself in the fiercely competitive world of women’s golf.
The talented 26-year-old kept herself fit physically and mentally during the lockdown, and is happy to be back on the fairways since the easing of coronavirus restrictions last month.
“When I came back to Hong Kong [in March], I actually did a lot of good motivational stuff,” she told reporters at the Hong Kong Golf Club. “I read more, I did home workouts and I spent more time with my parents.”
Her first 14 days back in the territory were spent in isolation and she is to have two more weeks in quarantine when she returns to her Las Vegas base later this month, ahead of the tour’s expected resumption next month, but Chan dismisses any notion of hardship.
“With all the difficulties that are going on around the whole world, I should be positive and making good use of this period to make myself a better player,” she said.
Chan ranked 140th on the money list after her rookie 2018 LPGA Tour season, forcing her back to qualifying school.
In her second season, a more experienced Chan recorded two top-20 finishes and made her maiden cut in a major at the US Women’s Open.
Chan kept her card and was targeting further success this year before the COVID-19 pandemic laid waste to everyone’s plans.
Unlike some toward the bottom of the money list, Chan has few financial worries, despite having no prize money to play for since her last tournament, the Australian Open in early February.
“It’s a little different for athletes. We do have sponsorships,” said Chan, whose main backers are private bank EFG and the Hong Kong Golf Club. “I still have my great sponsors behind me, supporting me throughout this hard time when everyone is struggling to even go to work in Hong Kong. I can afford to go to the gym, find a trainer and go to practice.”
The announcement by LPGA Tour commissioner Mike Whan that players would keep their status for next season had also come as a relief, Chan said.
“I think this is good for most of us on tour,” Chan said. “It means we are not forced to go back and play — some players might be scared of it.”
World No. 36 Caroline Masson told the Caddie Network’s Under the Strap podcast on Tuesday last week that she feared contracting the coronavirus while on the road.
“Nobody wants to be in that situation, to be far away from home battling this,” Masson said.
However, Chan said that she “100 percent” aimed to be on the tee for the LPGA Tour’s planned resumption at Ohio’s Marathon Classic from July 23 to July 26, and has been able to relax now that the pressure of having to keep her card has been removed.
“I don’t have to think about making cuts, so when I’m in such a positive mindset, I just think I could play like the big players, because they play fearlessly,” Chan said. “My goal is to break through to a top-10 finish. Having this period of time, I think my golf game grows day by day. If I could have more top finishes, it could definitely help me to break through into the top 10, then top five and eventually I could be winning.”
Having gotten over her Olympic disappointment, Chan, who came 37th at the 2016 Rio Games as an amateur, thinks that the Tokyo delay could work in her favor.
“I was excited by playing at the Olympics this year, but I’ve enjoyed this time off to work on my game,” Chan said. “Who knows what’s going to happen? Hopefully, I could have a chance to win a medal.”
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