04 Jun 2024

From junior golfer to top amateur and then on to the Tours, former national golfer and touring professional Choo Tze Huang has done it all. He now embraces a career switch that is taking him down the road of entrepreneurship.

As one of Singapore’s top amateur and professional golfers, Choo Tze Huang has expertly handled the physical and mental demands and rewards of tour life.

The last 12 months or so, however, have brought challenges of a different kind. The 37-year- old has had to deal with the passing of his father and mentor Choo Kok Chung, taking over a golf apparel business, and setting up of a new company, PALLADIUM, at the end of 2023.

“Golf has always been my life”, he says. “Taking over dad’s business was a bit of a no-brainer. I spoke to him about it and asked him to teach me a little bit about what he was doing. But he never wanted me to work with him because he said that if I wanted to play golf, I had to be 100 per cent focused on it.”

Choo credits his father with introducing him to the game at the age of six. The interest grew from there and he played in his first junior event a few years later in Malaysia. “I think it just kind of picked up from there, just knowing that it’s kind of fun, you know, winning and playing and being competitive. I’ve always been quite competitive when it comes to golf.

“I told my dad, I think I want to play golf professionally. So, he kind of taught me, set a plan and a schedule with my school back then, and as long as I stuck to it and I didn’t fail behind in school he would support me.”

After completing national service in 2005, Choo headed to the US in 2007 on a golf scholarship to complete his tertiary studies at the University of Washington. He admits he struggled during his first year, not enjoying the experience and in his words “playing bad golf”.

But his sister Kit Ching, father and friend Patrick Feizal Joyce were his counsel and he slowly started enjoying his time there. His father, for one, reminded him that “not many people had the opportunity to play golf and study for free overseas”, which struck a chord with Choo.

In his freshman year, Choo was the university squad’s third-best finisher at both the 2008 NCAA Championships and the 2008 NCAA West Regional, and was the team’s No. 2 player at the 2008 Pac-10 Championships.

With every intention to turn professional after university, Choo said that the whole college system really helped. “It helped me grow up, and understand what I wanted to do. Obviously, the education there made me more mature in my own thinking. But just being able to compete overseas and get as much playing experience before deciding to turn pro was a key factor.”

He adds, “I think in Singapore, I always advise kids here to go away and play if they can. Try to make it there and then when it’s time to come back, you come back but if there’s an opportunity to go away, I think they really have to.

“For Singaporeans, staying amateur a little bit longer doesn’t hurt and can only benefit them. There’s no rush to turn pro. Play for the country, try to play all the major events to represent your country and add those experiences into your resume and into your game. I think that would prepare you better once you turn pro.”

During his professional career, Choo won a number of tournaments including the Palm Springs-SPGA Golf Series in Batam in 2017 and the first leg of the Singapore Pro Series Invitational in 2021. He has also competed on the Japan Challenge Tour, yet there were barriers to playing opportunities.

“What I feel we lack is the availability of playing opportunities. In Malaysia you have the Toyota PGA Tour. In Thailand you have the All Thailand Tour, the Thai PGA Tour, and the Development Tour, so on and so forth. I mean, Indonesia, over the last two years, has built up a very good local tour. And you could see a lot of good Indonesian pros being successful on the Asian Development Tour and moving up onto the Asian Tour. So I think all that plays a part.”

Sponsorship is also another hurdle. “I think in Singapore, people still see golfers as coming from an elite family, coming from family with money. And I feel very strongly against this.

“I don’t come from a rich family. But we got by. No matter how much a family supports you, they eventually want you to be financially independent. Having a sponsor outside of your family would give aspiring professionals much more confidence to play.”

He adds, “Over the years, Patrick (Feizal Joyce) found me a couple of sponsors, but, you know it took them a long time to come, and the split the second I started playing bad.”

Choo called time on his pro career when his father passed away but is there anything that he misses most about not playing on Tour?

“I miss competing,” he admits. “I still love the game dearly. I may not play as much on the course, but on weekends, when I have time to myself, I’m out on the range practising. I’m trying to keep the game to a level where I can enjoy it and not feel frustrated.

“I definitely want to maintain a certain level of game as a semi-retired playing pro. It’s also personal but it helps in the business that we do, playing golf with clients and potential clients.”

After his father passed away in March last year, it made sense for Choo to take over the reins of the business as the distributor for Malaysian brand Crestlink golf apparel. It was a family decision, and his mother still helps out when Choo travels.

In addition to running and growing Crestlink, the opportunity came about to start sports events, advisory and player management company PALLADIUM with friend Patrick Feizal Joyce who was also Choo’s manager from 2012.

“I knew him before I turned pro,” Choo recalls. “So we have built a relationship over the years and he’s like family.” As a player manager, Feizal Joyce offered guidance and counselling when things got tough. “So it was an easy decision.”

Events that PALLADIUM has worked on include the S$1 million Simone Asia Pacific Cup in Jakarta last December and the S$1 million Hana Financial Group Singapore Women’s Open in March 2024, and they are looking to grow this side of the business when it comes to both men’s and women’s golf tournaments. PALLADIUM has also signed their first player – Thai professional Gunn Charoenkul – and they are looking to sign more from the region.

“But obviously, the main focus is looking for events, and not necessarily in golf,” Choo clarifies. “We are definitely open to handle other sports if the opportunity comes around. We want to use what experience we have with golf and see what we can do with other sports and try to do things better.” And with Choo senior looking down on his son, what would he want his father to be thinking? “I’m trying to grow the Crestlink business, and just keep learning and going. I think he would be proud.”