TO GREATER HEIGHTS TOGETHER

04 Mar 2024

Tan Chong Huat’s efforts at transforming golf in Singapore transcends what’s expected of his role as President of the Singapore Golf Association.

PRIOR TO YOUR CURRENT POSITION AS SGA PRESIDENT, WHAT WAS YOUR INVOLVEMENT IN GOLF?

I was a Singapore Golf Association (SGA) Executive Board member from 2018- 2020, and then SGA Vice President from 2020-2022 before becoming the President of SGA. During this time, I also chaired the SGA Audit & Risk and Governance and Compliance Sub-committees where we reviewed SGA’s operating policies, standards & procedures. I am pleased that SGA recently received the Charity Transparency Awards 2023 which is a testament to the hard work past and current committees have put in to ensure good governance.

WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AS SGA PRESIDENT AND WHAT NEW APPROACH DO YOU HOPE TO TAKE IN THIS CAPACITY?

As SGA President, my role involves working with my Executive Board, Governing Council and Sub-committee colleagues to provide strategic leadership and direction. Thus far, I have applied my corporate and management experience towards building SGA as an effective, well governed, and sustainable organisation in Singapore and the region.

WHAT DO YOU FEEL IS THE STATE OF GOLF IN SINGAPORE CURRENTLY?

Although we face several challenges such as land scarcity, I strongly believe that golf in Singapore is vibrant with a passionate community supporting the sport. There is certainly keen interest amongst the community which can be seen by the utilisation rates of golf courses and driving ranges.

IN WHAT WAYS DO YOU THINK GOLF HERE CAN IMPROVE?

Golf in Singapore can improve by enhancing accessibility of the sport to the wider community. Working with the various stakeholders, we will continue to develop grassroots programs, foster talent at the junior level, and promote golf as an inclusive sport

WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE GOLF INFRASTRUCTURE IN SINGAPORE THAT HELPS – OR DETERS – THE INDUSTRY FROM MEETING ITS POTENTIAL? HOW CAN WE SOLVE THIS?

As mentioned earlier, the golf community is an extremely supportive and passionate one. In addition, the facilities in Singapore are world-class which contributes positively to the industry. However, challenges such as limited space, high membership prices, and shortage of public golf courses can act as deterrents. Addressing these issues will involve strategic partnerships and exploring innovative solutions like alternative formats of golf such as indoor golf, which has been gaining popularity in Singapore.

TELL US ABOUT THE SGA TASK FORCE YOU’VE ASSEMBLED, AND WHAT ARE ITS GOALS?

The Golf Industry Development Task Force (GIDTF) consists of leaders and experts in various industries to advise and provide feedback, and develop strategies that will foster the growth and development of the golf industry in Singapore. The task force will identify and address challenges facing the industry, as well as develop and advise on implementation of ideas and solutions that will improve the golf ecosystem in Singapore. In addition, we’ve also set up the Athlete Development Pathway Task Force (ADPTF) which provides advice to the SGA on matters relating to elite golfers, who have represented Singapore at major international competitions, on their entire pathway from development to competition and career opportunities after retirement.

WHAT’S ON THE AGENDA WITH THESE TASK FORCES?

The GIDTF will develop a roadmap of programmes that align with the identified areas of improvement and growth potential. It will also prioritize initiatives based on their potential impact and feasibility. It will look into ways that enhance the golf ecosystem in Singapore including areas such as access for public golfers, students, sustainability, technology, conferences, media and public relations.

Similarly, the ADPTF will help the SGA develop a career ecosystem for elite golfers from national squad stage and up to their retirement as SGA professionals. It hopes to provide advice to the SGA Executive Board and Management on strategies to provide clear development pathways and support systems for elite golfers. This may include networks, external leaders, and experts that SGA should engage.

SINGAPORE IS UNUSUAL IN THAT THE MAJORITY OF OUR CLUBS ARE PRIVATE. HOW DOES THIS HELP OR HINDER THE GROWTH OF GOLF?

The private nature of most golf clubs in Singapore can pose challenges for broadening participation. Efforts to strike a balance between maintaining the prestige of private clubs and promoting public access will be crucial for sustainable growth. Alternative formats of golf such as indoor golf, as well as golf clubs without physical courses, such as My Golf Kaki, are avenues to encourage the growth of golf. Bear in mind that most driving ranges in Singapore are public despite them being located in private golf clubs.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE IN YOUR TENURE AS SGA PRESIDENT?

There are three key pillars that I will focus on during my tenure. One is to develop a healthy golf ecosystem. The SGA will play a leadership role in strengthening this ecosystem from the ground up through stakeholder engagement, ESG leadership and community engagement. This includes consistent engagement with both the current golfing community, as well as the non- golfing community to introduce golf to as many segments of the population as possible. SGA is working with organisations such as NTUC Club, People’s Association and more recently the Singapore Disability Sports Council to introduce the game to the wider community.

Secondly, I’d like ensure and accelerate high performance with our athletes. I hope to enhance support for them, and affirm Singapore as a top contender in the Asia- Pacific region by developing and strengthening our High-Performance & Junior Development Programmes and staging more international tournaments in Singapore such as the 2024 Southeast Asian Team Golf Championships and the 2025 World Amateur Team Championships.

Junior golf is an equally important aspect in order to achieve high performance. We have invested in junior development by starting the SGA Junior Inter-Club League over the past two years. In 2024, SGA has announced over 30 tournaments for juniors across various stages of development. These events will be held across various golf courses and clubs in Singapore including Sentosa Golf Club, Warren Golf and Country Club, Seletar Country Club, Keppel Golf Club, Tanah Merah Country Club, Singapore Island Country Club, Mandai Executive Golf Course, Sembawang Country Club and  Orchid Country Club. SGA will also continue to synergise with all golf clubs to elevate junior golf development in Singapore.

The Training and Development (T&D) Committee at SGA has also revamped the high-performance structure for 2024 in order to ensure effective allocation of resources and the enhancement of the daily training environment. Selection into the squads will be via rankings of players and trials where players earn their way into the program. The T&D committee and ADPTF will continue to work with various stakeholders to enhance the support for athletes as they work hard to chase the Olympic Dream. It truly takes a village to raise a champion.

And thirdly, I hope to strengthen SGA’s financial position to ensure economic sustainability by developing and evolving the commercial potential to our commercial assets, and building innovative and sustainable corporate partnerships. I am pleased to share that we have increased our corporate sponsorship monies by 3.5 times, raising close to S$2million in 2023 for SGA programs.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR “DAY JOB”.

I have been a legal practitioner for over 33 years and am currently the senior partner of RHTLaw Asia LLP.

HOW DO YOU MANAGE YOUR TIME WITH YOUR WORK AND SGA DUTIES?

I am driven by my passion and deep responsibility for all my undertakings. Hence I enjoy what I do without clear distinction of my work and SGA duties. As the Nike motto goes – “Just do it”. That said having a very supportive spouse is my biggest asset.

HOW DID YOU GET INTO GOLF AND WHY HAS IT TAKEN A SPECIAL PLACE IN YOUR LIFE?

At age 28, I went for my first lesson which was organised by  my boss as a group outing for young associates. My initiation on the course was at Pulai Springs Golf and Country Club in Johor, Malaysia because I was one of the lawyers involved in the club development and membership sales. In my mid- 40s, when the children were in the teens, I picked it up again. Over the years I have grown to love and respect the sport. Golf is yin and yang to me in that it gives me my quiet time and space to play each hole, and yet time and space to build friendships, and even some brotherhoods.

WHY DO YOU THINK GOLF IS AS MUCH A BENEFIT TO THOSE WHO PLAY IT – ESPECIALLY THE YOUNG?

I believe that golf provides a platform for physical and emotional development. Golf also offers valuable life skills such as discipline, respect, sportsmanship, which are transferrable to many other aspects of life. As Bobby Jones put it: “Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots – but you have to play the ball where it lies”.

 


DID YOU KNOW…

I REMEMBER VIVIDLY…. my early days of playing at Pulai Springs and Keppel Club. I was all over the place and totally demoralised. The consolation is that I’ve become better since then, not saying that I’m particularly good presently.

I USUALLY PLAY WITH…. my good friends. I’m blessed with many playing partners and am often double or even triple booked. Given my role, l get to play at many clubs quite regularly when l am in town. I thank God for this privilege and for all my friends (who still want to play with me).

THE THING I ENJOY ABOUT GOLF IS… that it gives me space to free my mind and some sort of respite from work and life. I feel recharged after each game, provided l avoid playing with flight mates who are inconsiderate and have bad sportsmanship. Regretfully these days, discussions about SGA affairs on the course are quite inevitable.

WHEN I’M NOT PLAYING GOLF OR WORKING, I… like to travel and read. Books make me happy and content. During the pandemic, I also picked up a keen interest for hiking. I’ve since covered some of the best national parks in the United States and Canada over the last few years. Nature teaches me the magnificence of God’s creation and affords me the solitude to reflect on how golf imparts humility and the grit to overcome times when things don’t go well.

GOLF HAS TAUGHT ME… not to always take things for granted. I’m endeared to this game that has inspired me to give back to society. Without a shadow of a doubt, golf is a game suitable for all ages, and is a game of a lifetime.

More posts

FINDING HER WAY

17 Apr 2024
1 2 3 78
`