Eight months on from his astonishing, history making victory in the World City Championship here at the Hong Kong Golf Club, Fanling, Taichi Kho is back in action at the famous venue this week to compete in the tournament which for so long he considered “the biggest event in the world”, the Hong Kong Open.
Kho, who is the club’s ambassador, is playing in the event for the first time as a professional, having made numerous appearances during his fine amateur career, for yet another landmark moment for the player who has spent 15 years in awe of the tournament.
“I don’t remember my first round here [at Fanling],” said 22-year-old.
“I played here when I was really, really, young, but I remember watching Rory [McIlroy] here in 2008. I always looked up to the event. I remember going every November and December time for the Hong Kong Open, it was like the biggest event in the world in my perspective. To be able to play in it as a professional now is a dream come true.”
The Hong Kong star won the gold medal in the Asian Games last month and having finished second in the Volvo China Open on Sunday, thanks to holing his chip for an eagle on the final hole, he arrives this week on the crest of giant wave.
There is enormous pressure on his young shoulders this week with huge crowds expected to come out and support him when the tournament commences on Thursday but despite this the level-headed golfer is taking it all in his stride and admits to treating it as just another event.
He added: “The expectations usually come from the outside. For myself, I am out here playing like any other week. I am just trying to progress my game. I understand there are a lot of outside expectations but on my part I am just going to play golf and whether I play well or not I know I am going to learn a lot.”
When he won the World City Championship in March he shot rounds of 64, 64 and 70 for a winning three-round total of 12 under – after the event was reduced to 54-holes because of inclement weather. It saw him become the first player from Hong Kong to win an Asian Tour event.
The Hong Kong Open does of course represent a very different challenge as the US$2 million event is part of The International Series and features an all-star cast including: 2022 Open Championship winner Cameron Smith, reigning LIV Golf League individual champion Talor Gooch, 2018 Masters winner Patrick Reed, reigning champion Hong Kong Open and two-time winner Wade Ormsby, 2010 US Open winner Graeme McDowell and LIV Golf headliners Harold Varner III, Thomas Pieters and Eugenio Chacarra.
He’s been paired with Smith and Reed for the first two rounds for added inspiration and excitement as he looks to draw on all his local knowledge to try and create history again by becoming the first player from Hong Kong to win the Hong Kong Open.
“The process this week stays the same. I have the advantage of knowing the sidelines off the tees,” he said.
“Most of the work now is understanding how the course is this week. Usually through the year it is not as firm and fast, it’s about getting adjusted to that. Other than that, it’s preparation. The goal is the same, the process is the same. It’s just like any other week, but it is at home.
“I see the course not in the same way everyone else sees it. I see quite a few drivers off the tee. You don’t need to overpower the course, but use your driver to your advantage, and be really sharp around the greens.
“Because I have played this course so many times I understand the dispersion patterns, and hopefully I can use that to my advantage.”
When he played in this tournament in 2020, the last time the event was played before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, he carded a 74 and 69 to miss the cut by two.
He’s come a long way since then to become the region’s most exciting young golfer, a role model for Hong Kong’s next generation of golfers and the ultimate ambassador for one of the grandest venues of them all, Hong Kong Golf Club.