By Ed Leech
A little girl dressed head to toe in pink, grins from ear to ear as she bounces through the interactive village of the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore. She looks as though all her birthdays have just come at once. In her eyes she’s done one better.
“I just met Paula Creamer!” she says giggling, “She’s definitely my favourite player. I’ve even got a ball signed by Paula Creamer!”
The excitement in nine year-old Natasha Sturgess’ eyes is clear to see; this will go down as one of the proudest moments of her young life.
Her father, Matthew, who works for an IT company based in Singapore, revealed that his daughter is a keen golfer and she was insistent that they come down for the day to watch the world’s top golfers at the Tanah Merah Country Club.
“She’s only recently picked up the game. She has been following me around the golf course since she was a bout two years old”, he said.
“We decided to come up and watch Paula Creamer play a few holes as she’s her favourite player and see what a competition is all about and what it’s like.”
They both share a passion for the game and try to get out on the course as often as possible. Natasha also attends golf lessons at the weekends and the expression on her face highlights her enthusiasm and love for the sport that is still quite new to her.
“I’ve been playing for about one year. Dad is way better than me!” she claims.
“Funny that!” he immediately retorts.
“But I know I shouldn’t really admit this. She actually beat me on a hole the other day. I think she’s going to be a good player.”
Natasha is not the only one. Around the course and in the interactive fan zone, the HSBC Women’s Champion has created quite a buzz. Jam packed with golf simulators, longest putt competitions and free coaching tips, it’s designed to allow youngsters to get a feel for the game. On the course they’re treated to some of the best golf in the ladies game.
The increase in the number of young fans who attended the second edition of the HSBC Women’s Champions is apparent, even to the naked eye. Many of them are at a tournament for the very first time and are making the most of every minute to see players like Creamer, Lorena Ochoa and Se Ri Pak with their own eyes.
Golfers are a new breed of role-models for these young girls, something that’s not lost on golfers either. World number three Paula Creamer, known as the Pink Panther, took time out before the tournament to coach 30 some of Singapore’s leading youth golfers who all train under the world’s local bank’s grassroots scheme
“It’s huge. Not only do I love the game of golf, I love to give back,” she said.
“It’s important to have role models, especially for girls when they’re growing up. Not that I’m old or anything, but when I was growing up I didn’t really have anybody to look at who was around my age now. It’s nice to do that for them and to teach them something that they can learn because golf can teach so much more than the golf course; it teaches you so many life lessons and that’s very important.”
Eight year-old Joeline Teo is another looking to learn from the experience of watching the world’s top female golfers. While her favourite player may be the omnipresent Tiger Woods, she shyly admitted that it was great to see the women in action.
“It’s really fun”, she said.
“I really like watching all the famous players.”
Her mother Caroline, who works as a teacher in a pre-school in Singapore, admitted that it was a chance that they couldn’t afford to miss out on.
“It was recommended by one of my friends. All the best women golfers from all over the world have come here. I’ve never been to Tanah Merah before but all my friends have said that it is wonderful. We’ve both had a great time and it’s been a fantastic experience.”
The two of them, along with Joeline’s father, all play the game and make sure that they play together every Sunday. It’s obviously working as Joeline is making great strides in her development.
“She plays pretty well actually. She started playing when she was four years old. I just wanted her to experience how the professionals play.”
Sport in Singapore has come a long way in the last few years and has established itself as one of Asia’s top sporting venues for world-class events. As a result, the Singaporean people have taken sport and exercise more seriously and parents are looking to encourage their children to take part in a variety of different activities.
“I wanted to show my daughter the women players to inspire her in sports. I think that golf is a very good sport. She’s not that into it yet. But that might be because it’s so hot here!” grins Charlie Fohn , a financial broker based in Singapore.
His reasons for coming were to inspire his daughter Christina for life, rather than just for golf.
“I think that when you see the women golfers on TV they look pretty muscular but live they look really healthy because they exercise all the time. I think it’s good for my daughter to see.”
After a few hours wandering the course, seeing the players in the flesh definitely made an impression on Christina.
“Se Ri Pak. I like her,” she says proudly.
If there’s one name in the field that you would want your daughter to follow then Se Ri Pak would not be a bad place to start. The Hall of Famer, despite not winning on tour last season, still has that aura about her which has the ability to attract fans both young and old. Yet she was not the only one in the HSBC Women’s Champions field. The scoreboard is littered with household names and rising stars and the tournament as a whole has quickly established itself as one of the best on the LPGA schedule.
However, as a young female fan, the most obvious thing to do would be to take a leaf from Natasha Sturgess’ book and watch every girl’s favourite Paula Creamer. And that’s where most of them could be found on the course.
As the leading groups, including Paula, made their way down the 18th fairway on the final day of the tournament, another father-daughter combination were searching for the best vantage point. Perched high up on Daddy’s shoulders, this young girl, aged no more than six, watched intently as the players approached the green.
“Who’s your favourite player?” he whispered.
“I love all the players. Especially the pretty ones,” she replied.
Sometimes girls will just be girls