Making His Mark

Six months after joining the HKGA from his previous role working for six-time major champion Nick Faldo, Chief Executive Tom Phillips talks to Alex Jenkins about the state of the game in Hong Kong, the challenges he faces and explains why he is excited about the future

The Hong Kong team won silver medal at the 2013 National Games

2014 is going to be a big year on the international front with the Queen Sirikit Cup, the Putra Cup, the Junior World Championships and the World Amateur Team Championships all taking place. What goals do the HKGA have with regard to these events?

We set out our targets at the beginning of the year, which tournaments we’re going to focus on and what kind of results we’re aiming for, both for the teams and for the individuals involved. It is important for our own focus but also it’s also very relevant for our relationship with the Hong Kong Sports Institute.

The Sports Institute provides benefits in two areas - through potential funding and also through access to their state-of-the-art facilities. Furthermore, funding can be available for the HKGA but also for the individuals themselves.

We’ve come off a successful 2013, with a silver medal earned at the National Games and also some excellent individual performances, so we’ve set the bar high for 2014. If we can continue to obtain strong results we can aim for Tier B status - for up and coming sports - with the Sports Institute, which is the tier below elite status.

Because of Hong Kong’s size we have a limited pool of players. Is it unrealistic to think we can compete and challenge with some of our bigger near neighbours - the likes of China, Thailand and so on?

When we set our targets we have to accept our limitations, but at the same time our view is that anything is possible. We have funding, we have excellent coaches and we have strong support from our partners - including the golf courses and the driving ranges - so we can continue to aim to move up the rankings and compete with our neighbours.

At the end of the day, our goal is to promote golf in Hong Kong, and the more opportunities we can provide our top golfers, the better. That produces a trickledown effect. It inspires a new generation of players. If the younger kids see guys excelling at golf and making a great life out of it, it makes the sport more attractive to the next generation.

One topic of concern to golfers in Hong Kong has been the closure of some of the driving ranges in recent times. What is the HKGA’s view on the subject?

The driving ranges are hugely important in what we’re trying to do and their situation is similar in some ways to that of the Hong Kong Golf Club. We’re working to strengthen our ties with all our partners, including the driving ranges, and it’s important that we support them in their endeavours.

Another area we will focus on is public relations. We need to tell our story but we also need to highlight the important role that the member golf clubs, the public courses and the driving ranges play for golf in Hong Kong and for society in general. That will help their cause as much as it does ours and it is something we will be working hard on in the months ahead.

Six months into the job now. Are you enjoying it?

Yes - I love it. In some ways it’s very different to what I was doing before but there is a lot of crossover too - I’m working with a lot of the same partners and clients. One of the attractions for me from the start was that I already knew the team at the HKGA. The association has made significant progress over recent years thanks to my predecessor; and the team that I have joined works hard, they are very professional and they do an excellent job. Having them behind me helps my role enormously. It’s certainly a challenging role, but exciting nonetheless.


Click here to see the published article.