Sentosa, Singapore, January 10: The season-opening SMBC Singapore Open is one of the most anticipated events on the Asian Tour calendar. For one, the 2017 edition won the Best Tournament award at the Asian Tour Awards Gala 2017. This year, the tournament, again co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the Japan Golf Tour, will be contested on January 18 to 21 at the Sentosa Golf Club.
At the same award ceremony, the Sentosa Golf Club’s Serapong course won Best Golf Course. Much of the credit will have to go to General Manager and Director of Agronomy, Andy Johnston and his team for working tirelessly to keep the course conditions in championship condition all year round.
The Asian Tour spoke with Johnston and got his thoughts on the SMBC Singapore Open as well as Sentosa Golf Club’s role in shaping the future of golf in Singapore.
Tell us about Sentosa Golf Club’s involvement with the SMBC Singapore Open.
Most people probably won’t realize that the SMBC Singapore Open will be the first of four televised events held at our club this year. Perhaps an unprecedented feat in the world of golf. Our work, our commitment, our attention to detail to golf and to developing champions is unmatched. We do not do this for thanks or a pat on the back but we do this for a love of the game, along with a sense of duty to keep growing its appeal on not just a local, but an international level too.
This is the 11th time in the event’s history that it will be played on our Serapong Course. Every year is different in terms of the players, and the competition, but what remains the same, is the huge sense of pride we carry in playing host to such a prestigious tournament. Along with pride comes dedication, and that’s certainly the case in everything we do here at Sentosa. Our constant strive for perfection enables us to present a course that the professionals enjoy playing, and the people enjoy watching. Providing conditions like these all year round is a testimony to a huge investment of time and resource from the whole team at Sentosa, both staff and members, whose contribution is often overlooked. The downtime the members allow us to stage such events is invaluable, and it’s this time that allows us to give back to the great game, and open the doors of our special club to the world’s golfing population, and to many talented local youngsters.
How is Sentosa Golf Club supporting local players?
Sentosa has always maintained a responsibility for helping out local players, both men and women.
Back in 2015 we hosted the SEA Games and offered exclusive access to the national team to train and practice for six months prior to the games. Team Singapore won a record four medals that year.
The same Games saw the emergence of a special talent in Koh Sock Hwee. Alongside promising amateur Dane Ang, we spotted their potential, and adopted them as sponsored friends of our club, providing them with the opportunity to hone their skills here, and help them develop their own careers.
In particular, everybody involved with the club has taken great pride in watching Koh Sock Hwee’s evolution into a fine professional, from competing as an amateur at first to her three appearances at the HSBC Women’s Champions, also held at Sentosa.
On a more current note, the second event in our busy 2018 schedule sees us host the inaugural Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Golf Championship, a joint venture between The R&A and Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation (APCG). Ahead of the tournament, we’ve opened the doors to the members of the female national team. It’s set to be a thrilling contest, with a lot at stake. The winner will receive an entry into the HSBC Women’s World Championship, the ANA Championship and the Ricoh British Women’s Open.
The fourth and final televised event of 2018 at Sentosa will be the Asia-Pacific Men’s Amateur, which alongside the US Amateur, and the British Amateur Championship is one of the most prestigious events for amateurs in the game. Organised by Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation in conjunction with Augusta National and The R&A, the winner will take up a place in The Masters and The Open Championship. Like with the women’s tournament, we currently have the men’s national team practicing at Sentosa.
However, back to this week, and the SMBC Singapore Open. As well as opening the doors to the National Team to train and practice a couple months ago, we extended the same offer to local pros. Over the past week, we’ve welcomed anyone keen to drop by and see players from Asian Tour, SPGA and the National team all out practicing for the event.
How many players have you seen practicing on your golf course?
We have seen big names such as Mardan Mamat, Zaw Moe, Mitchell Slorach and others around the past week, but it’s the numerous members of both the men’s and women’s national teams out working hard on their game every day that is hugely rewarding for us as a club to see, and make our efforts all the more worthwhile. It’s instances like these that spur us on to continually help grow the game of golf.
How is Sentosa Golf Club supporting the local game beyond just providing access to players?
We’ve taken great strides in encouraging many local professionals to use our facilities in the build-up to the tournament. I think what’s often overlooked is what happens after these events. Creating a legacy is a huge part of encouraging increased participation in our game, and rearing the next generation of talented professionals, especially on a local scale. It’s with this in mind that we conceived the idea for #KeepItGreen, a year-long campaign aimed at celebrating Sentosa’s position as a pioneer for sustainable agronomical practices, but at the same time highlighting the role we play in increasing awareness and participation in the game amongst the younger generations within the Singapore community.
Throughout the week we’ll be embarking on a number of initiatives to help amplify the #KeepItGreen message, so be sure to look out for these.
Well, it’s a simple one, Sentosa Golf Club is built to host Championships, and committed to developing champions.