Ms. Nhung Tang

Vietnam golf star aims for Rio

Bangkok, March  24 -- Ask most sportsmen and women what would be his or her ultimate achievement and chances are they’ll say, “To represent my country at the Olympic Games”. It’s a fact: whatever the financial or other benefits from being a high-level sportsperson, competing and winning at the Olympics remains the pinnacle.

So it is with Vietnamese golfer Nhung Tang who aims to represent her country, as fledgling as it is in the game of golf, in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

It’s a tough task. A maximum of two players can represent each country, unless a player is ranked in the top 15 in the world. Then it comes down to world rankings.

With a maximum of 60 players in the men’s and women’s fields, Vietnam will be relying on either Nhung or Brianna Do, the only other professional Vietnamese player being high enough to be one of the lesser-recognised golf nations to qualify.

Whether or not Vietnam’s red star makes it to Rio, Nhung has other ambitions in golf. One is to help development of the game in her homeland.

“I would like to help junior golf in some way,” she says. “I’d really like to see more juniors playing the game, so they have a chance to become a pro and play at the highest level.”

Nhung knows what it takes. She didn’t play golf until she moved to Thailand, aged 22, in 2002. She worked at a driving range in inner Bangkok, started hitting balls and found she had a previously unknown talent.

She won the Vietnam amateur title and a gold medal at the country’s national games and turned pro in 2007. Her star really began to rise when she won two tournaments on the US Cactus Tour that features female professional events in Arizona, Texas and California. Four years living next to one of the best courses in Perth, Western Australia helped refine her game.

Nowadays, she plays in Asia, mostly on the Thailand LPGA Tour, where she is resuming playing in February after a break from a shoulder injury.

Nhung, whose clothing sponsor is the Thai apparel manufacturer, D’ablo Sportswear, says her tour idol is South Korea’s Si Re Pak, winner of 25 LPGA tournaments including five majors.

“She is still playing so well even though she is 36,” says Nhung, who is 33. “She is always so calm and always gets the job done so efficiently. There’s a lot that younger players, and myself, can learn from watching her.”

Paul Myers