Confident Leow looks to shine on home turf

With his confidence high, top amateur James Leow is hoping to perform well in front of a home crowd at this week’s SMBC Singapore Open.

Leow, the reigning SEA Games champion, is no stranger to the mighty Serapong Course at Sentosa Golf Club having played the tournament two times before and practiced regularly on the course.

The 22-year-old Arizona State University undergraduate created a bit of history with his individual gold medal at the SEA Games in the Philippines last December as he became the first Singaporean to win the title since Samson Gimson at the 1989 Games in Malaysia.

Coming off a made cut at the Hong Kong Open last week, Leow is looking for a similar outcome at the joint-sanctioned SMBC Singapore Open from January 16-19.

“I am playing well, putting and chipping is great. I am mentally prepared for each round,” said Leow, ahead of the Hong Kong Open where he shot rounds of 73-67-72-74.

“I had a two-week break during Christmas and New Year (before the Hong Kong Open) which was great but I have also been practicing a lot on the Serapong with Nicklaus Chiam and Low Wee Jin – my (Singapore) teammates who are also playing in the SMBC Singapore Open. I have played in the tournament twice before.

“I have no expectations. Priority is to make the cut, of course. I am really excited to be playing in such a big event (SMBC Singapore Open).”

Leow said that winning the SEA Games gold medal had helped him overcome a mental barrier and he was now playing fearless golf.

“It (winning the gold medal) has changed my mind set. I know I stand a chance now, my confidence has been boosted and I play with no fear,” he said.

“It reaffirmed to me that I’m on the right track for whatever I have been working on. My strengths are becoming better and my weaknesses are becoming my strengths too. Especially consistency with ball striking (spin and flight control) and overall self-belief in my game. I’m always ready to go out there and play with what I have.”

Leow said that his previous outings at the SMBC Singapore Open over the Serapong course had taught him a lot.

“I’ve always gotten something new that I need to work on after the event,” added Leow, who also won a team silver medal at the SEA Games.

“The one that stands out the most was having to be really smart and disciplined about my target line for shots and course strategy for the tucked pins. Especially with the big greens and pins tucked in the corner, lag putting is key to making pars or even birdies. The less mistake I make, the better for scoring.”

After the SMBC Singapore Open, Leow will head back to his studies at Arizona State University after which a big decision awaits – whether or not to turn professional.

“I am aiming to play in some of the big amateur events such as the British and European Amateurs and get into the (Sir Michael) Bonallack Trophy (a prestigious team event every two years between Europe and the Asia-Pacific),” he commented.

“I am undecided about turning professional and will make the call at a later stage.”

A good display at the SMBC Singapore Open may help him decide.

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