After posting two impressive top-25s on the Asian Tour in 2022 while playing as an amateur, Taichi Kho from Hong Kong secured his playing rights as a professional by finishing tied 22nd at the Asian Tour Qualifying School in January.
He would waste little time in securing his first Asian Tour title in dramatic fashion at his home club Hong Kong Golf Club, smashing a driver down the dangerously narrow 18th hole to win the World City Championship presented by Hong Kong Golf Club by two shots over a strong field that included global stars like the 2016 Open Champion Henrik Stenson and Ryder Cup legend Ian Poulter.
The enormously popular victory was Kho’s first win as a professional, and it was also the maiden Asian Tour victory by a Hong Kong player. It also meant he qualified for his first Open Championship, played at Royal Liverpool in July – meaning he became the first player born in Hong Kong to compete in the game’s oldest Major.
This week Kho is in Scotland for the St. Andrews Bay Championship at Fairmont St. Andrews – an event that is part of Asian Tour’s International Series – and asked how he feels about teeing it up this week the 22-year-old said: “Super special. I’ve never been to St. Andrews before, but everyone that I’ve talked to has only said great things about it. I’m just looking forward to embracing the week as a whole and look forward to playing some links golf again. I feel like I got some great experiences from The Open so hopefully that can help.”
After a lean spell following his win in Hong Kong that included some missed cuts, Kho steadied the ship at last week’s International Series England. Against a star-studded field that included Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell, Kho fired a final round five-under-par 66 to finish tied-ninth and feels like his game is still on the right track.
Said Kho: “Yeah, I mean, I feel like the tournaments I played after Hong Kong, like they’ve all been pretty new experiences for me. Like playing in Korea is really different, you know, playing The Open was a pretty stiff challenge.”
“So overall, I feel like my game has been there since Hong Kong and I feel like it’s been continuing to progress. It’s just sometimes the scores come and go, and it was kind of going, but overall, I didn’t really falter in the sense that I knew the game was there. So, it was just a matter of time.”
Having narrowly missed out on earning a spot in last year’s Open Championship when he finished runner-up in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in 2021, Kho made his debut at Royal Liverpool in July and was over the moon about the experience.
“Yeah, it was magical, really,” he said.
“I mean, I wish the week lasted forever, but it didn’t. It was just the amount of people that came out, and the players you play with, like I watched them growing up on TV and it’s just, you know, to be part of that crew was really special. And it really did motivate me, like I know I didn’t play my best, but it really motivated me and gave me kind of like a pump of determination into my game just to get back there in years to come. Because I’ve honestly never played an event like that, it was just the most magical experience ever,” he said.
At The Open Kho also had the chance to play a practice round with the 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott, who offered up some invaluable advice to the young Hong Kong native.
He said: “Yeah, I played 18 with Adam Scott leading up to the event on the Wednesday, just to see how he kind of prepares in the sense of like, he’s okay hitting some loose shots in the practice rounds, like that doesn’t really get him panicked or anything. He’s just very levelheaded. And he has a really, really great sense of how far each club goes, like, for example, a nine o’clock [swing] seven iron from 140 goes, and that’s something I’ve never heard of before with a mid-iron. So, I’m kind of incorporating that into my game as well, it has really helped me.”
While the former Notre Dame University standout has never been to St. Andrews and Scotland, he does have some experience playing on links courses at this year’s Open Championship and the 2022 Amateur Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes, and he thinks the style of play fits his game well.
“Yeah, I learned a lot from playing at The Open, just controlling my yardages with my irons a little better, flighting my shots a little better. And being a little more, I guess, mentally aggressive in the wind, just knowing that if I hit a good shot, I will get rewarded. So overall, I feel like, yeah, links golf really suits real good feel players, with good control over your distances and your ball. So, I feel like that’s something that I’ve been continuing to work on, especially after The Open, and since then I feel like I’ve really progressed.”