If Kelly Tan was looking for extra motivation ahead of her second appearance at the Olympic Games women’s golf competition, she got a full dose of it by witnessing a dramatic conclusion to the men’s event at the weekend.
Kelly, Malaysia’s sole representative on the LPGA Tour, said the seven-man playoff for the bronze medal which included Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa and Paul Casey, was riveting as the players fought till the very end before Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan emerged victorious after four extra holes to earn the final podium position.
The 27-year-old knows it will take a herculean effort for her to challenge for a medal against a stellar line-up in Tokyo and she will be ready to give it everything she has at Kasumigaseki Country Club starting Wednesday.
“Watching the last few groups coming in on 18 and the playoffs, you can see those guys really wanting to win a medal. Usually, you don’t play hard to come in third but it’s a different kind of week than when we are on tour. It’s super cool to be in this environment,” said Kelly.
She also watched fellow Malaysian Gavin Green battle in the men’s competition and was inspired. “Even though he wasn’t able to contend for a medal, he was giving 120% on every shot and he was out there trying his best. The women and men don’t get to play back-to-back very often and being able to interact with the PGA TOUR guys and seeing how much support they have towards the women’s game is awesome.”
Five years after finishing 51st at Rio 2016, Kelly takes great pride in donning the Malaysian flag on her apparel and golf bag. She dreams of winning a medal in hope that it will help advance the growth of the sport in Malaysia.
“It’s an honour to represent your country. The Olympics is the biggest stage for any athlete. It’s very exciting and I look forward to the start tomorrow,” she said. “The course is in great shape. I love how the course is designed, it’s really fair and if you hit a good shot, you’re going to have a close birdie putt and it’s very rewarding. It’s one of those courses where you need every shot in your bag.”
Kelly has yet to hit her stride on the LPGA Tour this season but knows all it takes is one week for her game to hit top form. “It’s a work in progress. Other athletes prepare over four years as this is the week of their lives and they peak here. Golf is different as we are on the road every week. There’s always something I’m working on. The game is looking a lot better and you just want it to click, and when it clicks you’ll feel like you’re walking on cloud nine which is the end goal,” she said.
“It would be huge (to win a medal) and when I win a medal, I hope the game of golf changes in Malaysia. We have a lack of support and I hope this somehow can motivate me to want to win a medal to change the game in Malaysia.”