Golf, like the measles, should be caught young. That’s what British author P.G. Wodehouse reckoned, anyway. As for Glasgow-based Sabrina Wong? Well, she certainly caught the bug as a young ‘un.
“I was two and watched my dad at the driving range and that made me fall in love with it,” she reflected.
Funny enough, my toddler son once watched me thrashing away at the range but, instead of being inspired, he’s been haunted by harrowing visions of golfing ineptitude ever since.
Wong, meanwhile, is far more competent at this fascinating, flummoxing game. And she’s still only 12 years old. Last week, Wong was in Thailand and was the youngest competitor playing in the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Championship.
Born in Hong Kong, Wong and her family made the decision to move to Scotland a year or so ago, primarily, to help her all-round development as a golfer. Now, that’s what you call dedication.
“I didn’t know much about the country,” she admitted. “I knew some of the traditional things, though, like the people wore kilts and had really heavy accents. I knew about haggis too.”
In addition to the attire, the accents and the offal, Wong has embraced the Scottish weather too. Well, almost.
“It’s just different from Hong Kong because I have to wear more layers and it’s harder to swing,” noted Wong, who was in the Hong Kong Golf Association junior squad by the age of seven.
“And in the winter, it’s dark by 3 p.m. But we thought that Scotland would have more (golf) opportunities for me, with different weather and courses in different parts of the country.
“Moving here has given me more time to play golf too. The education (system) over here gives me a bit more free time. There is less homework, less tests so I get more time to practice. In school, you get one week to do homework and it usually only takes me 15 minutes.”
Sabrina Wong of Hong Kong lines up a shot on day one of The Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Championship at Siam Country Club on February 01, 2024, in Chon Buri, Thailand. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)
That might change if her teacher is reading this? Wong’s golfing education in the cradle of the game has already earned her top marks.
Last season, she won the girls’ 11-age division of the US Kids Golf European Championship on Scottish soil by 15 shots and the girls’ under-12 division of the Champion of Champions event in Northern Ireland by 12 strokes. In the Scottish Girls’ Open, meanwhile, she won the under-12 title and was runner-up in the under-14 competition.
It’s an impressive haul from a young girl who clearly relishes the challenges and the fluctuating fortunes that golf provides in abundance.
“It’s the challenge that I love,” said Wong, who used to dabble in ice skating and ballet before putting all her sporting energies into this game. “You need a lot of patience and I like the ups and downs.”
Wong uses the facilities at Cathkin Braes to hone her skills and the good folk of the southside club have certainly welcomed her with open arms.
In recognition of her sterling endeavors in various competitions last season, Wong was given a special achievement award at the end-of-year prize-giving. “It’s a great facility and it’s only 12 minutes from home,” she added. “The people there are really nice too.”
Cathkin Braes already has a DP World Tour champion in Scott Jamieson. Perhaps Wong will be its next star product? There’s a long way to go on her journey, of course, and Wong is simply enjoying the opportunities that are coming her way.
Last week’s showpiece is the biggest amateur event in the Asia-Pacific region and comes with a considerable bounty, but Wong didn’t set her sights too high – she is only 12 remember. The chance to test herself against some of the best amateurs in the Far East was another valuable step in the learning process.
She opened with an impressive 74, but then missed the cut after posting an 80 in the second round. Still, she finished ahead of a dozen competitors and showed she’s trending in the right direction.
“I just want to gain more experience,” said Wong, who had her dad, Man, by her side as caddie.
Despite those tender years and missing this first weekend, Wong has already proved that she is, well, a cut above.