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Singapore golfer Shannon Tan earns card to play on 2024 Ladies European Tour

SINGAPORE – In a year which saw Shannon Tan writing her name in the golf record books after becoming the first local amateur to win the Singapore Ladies Masters, the 19-year-old has made yet another mark for herself.

This time her achievement was even more significant, as she finished eighth in the final stage of Lalla Aicha Q-School to earn a card on the prestigious Ladies European Tour (LET) in 2024 – again a first for a Singaporean golfer.

Competing at the Royal Golf Marrakech in Morocco, she posted a 69 in her fifth and final round on Dec 20 for a 15-under 348 total to finish eight strokes behind winner Nataliya Guseva of Russia.

With the top 20 and ties qualifying for the LET, Tan – who won the Dec 10-12 pre-qualifier at the Noria Golf Club to make the final stage – finished joint-eighth to earn a coveted spot.

Speaking to The Straits Times shortly after completing her round, Tan struggled to find the words to describe the moment and settled on “just very happy”.

She added later: “It means a lot to me. When I first started, I always wanted to do this as a career. I have tried to improve my game daily and take those small steps and those steps have led me to this stage.”

The full card will grant Tan access to all the events on the tour. There were at least 29 tournaments on the 2023 LET calendar, with prize purses ranging from US$300,000 (S$399,000) to US$7,300,000.

The 45-year-old tour has produced a number of success stories in women’s golf. Swedish great Annika Sorenstam, a 10-time Major champion who has won 90 titles, turned pro in 1992 and started her career on the LET. She won the LET Player of the Year honour in 1995 and 2002.

In 2017, Thai golfer Atthaya Thitikul became the youngest winner on the LET after clinching a two-shot victory at the Ladies European Thailand Championship aged just 14. She went on to claim three more titles on the LET before moving to the prestigious LPGA Tour, where she won twice in 2022 and reached the pinnacle of the world rankings in October that year.

It has been a year of breakthroughs for Tan, who in May closed out her freshman year at the Texas Tech University by finishing tied-fourth on her maiden outing at the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I golf regionals.

Two months later, she became the first Singaporean amateur to clinch victory in the inaugural Singapore Ladies Masters on the China Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour.

She is now looking forward to a family holiday in Zurich, Switzerland, where she will also have an important conversation with her parents. She said: “It has been an unforgettable year. I am looking forward to spending time with my family because I have not been able to do that much this year.

“And we also now need to look at whether studies have to be put on hold because you need full commitment for the LET calender.”

Her latest achievement marks a pivotal year for women golfers here.

In 2023, Amanda Tan became the first Singaporean to play on the LPGA Epson Tour, the second tier of the women’s professional circuit in the United States. She competed in 17 events during the season.

Lyn Yeo, former Singapore Ladies Golf Association president and founder of the Singapore Ladies Masters and Singapore Junior Development Tour, said: “For Shannon, it’s always been her goal to play pro golf… I believe this is only the first step. Her end game is not just earning a tour card on the LET.

“Every sport needs a hero to drum up local support. I hope Shannon will be the one to raise Singapore’s golfing aspirations and our juniors can aim further and higher than just representing the country at the SEA Games.”

While Yeo had targeted the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics for Tan, she hopes the latter can seize the “outside chance” to try and qualify for the 2024 edition in Paris.

According to Yeo, competing on the LET and accumulating enough points to make the top 350 in the world rankings will give Tan – who is currently ranked 700th – a realistic shot for 2024.

Yeo said: “My dream for her is to represent Singapore at the Olympics. This is a goal she can achieve, based solely on merit and I believe we have an outside chance to make it to Paris 2024. For now, my task is to get her into more tournaments, to earn the points to qualify for the Olympics.”

After unprecedented success in 2023, one would not rule out Tan from achieving yet another historic feat in the new year.

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