Rising star will call on youth and experience

Marc Ong will be one of the youngest players competing at next week’s Asian Amateur Championship. However, it would be a mistake to confuse that with a lack of experience. Still just 15-years-old, he knows the course, the conditions and can boast a golfing CV that includes victories across Asia and the United States.

Initially a member of the Singapore Development Squad, he swiftly moved up the ranks joining the National Squad by the age of 14 and capping a great season in 2010 by winning his country’s HSBC Youth Golf Challenge. In a career that has seen steady progression, Ong acknowledges that the Asian Amateur Championship represents the highest level of competition he has ever experienced. With this in mind, Ong has set himself clear targets for the week: “Playing against the best players in the region, I definitely need to step up my preparations and hopefully I can achieve good results. Anywhere within the top 20 will be a good accomplishment for me.”

Introduced to the game by his father at the age of five, he started playing seriously from the age of 10. His talent was clear from the outset and quickly led to a golf scholarship at the Singapore Sports School (SSS). “The SSS provided me with the right environment to combine my secondary school education and my golf development,” he explained.

“When I got selected to the National Development Squad, and the following year was promoted to the National Squad, I had more opportunities, as well as the confidence to compete in bigger Amateur tournaments.”

Sport is now his focus both in and out of the classroom having signed up for a sports and leisure management programme at Singapore’s Republic Polytechnic. He still has a couple of years to decide on whether he should pursue a college career in the US but is clear that his ultimate ambition is to become a touring pro. That may be a few years away but he appears to have already developed a winning mentality. In February, he won the IMG Leadbetter Junior Golf Tour in Orlando, Florida, his debut tournament on US soil. He followed that with runner-up spot at the 2011 Vietnam Amateur Open and earlier this month he was part of the four-man Singapore team that won the 51st Putra Cup at the South-East Asian Amateur Golf Team Championship.

Coached throughout his career by Chris Marriott, Ong has a powerful modern swing that would not look out of place on any practice range. “Despite his current slump, I still have the highest admiration for Tiger Woods,” Ong explained when asked to reveal his golfing heroes.

“I also like to draw my inspiration from the successful new generation of golfers, including Rory McIlroy, Matteo Manassero and Noh Seung Yul.”

Although realistic about his chances, he feels that home support and a familiar course will provide an advantage. “Singapore Island Country Club has been generous to let us practice on the New Course,” he said.

“The course is playing long and extremely challenging. You would probably need to use every club in your bag, and hit them well, a good all round test of your skills.”

Like all his fellow competitors, he is well aware of the life changing opportunities presented by the Asian Amateur Championship and that a good finish next week could transform his career. He added: “It is definitely a dream for any aspiring golfer to play at the Masters and The Open Championship.

“There will be only one winner, and realistically, my chances would not be high. However, even if the odds are one in 500 or one on 1000, as long as I am in the competition, I would still like to believe that I do stand a chance to win the event.”