August 10, 2023
SINGAPORE – Over a few months in 2019, Aloysa Atienza would take the ferry to Pulau Tekong a few times a week, spending the day in nature doing fieldwork as part of her civil engineering internship.
It was during this time that she realised she would much rather be surrounded by the greenery of the golf course, which pushed the then-undergraduate at the National University of Singapore to practise more.
It was a move that paid dividends as she was recruited by the national team in 2020. She went on to notch a creditable run of results in 2022, winning an individual silver medal in her SEA Games debut as well as several top-10 finishes in tournaments in Australia and the United States.
All these experiences have given the 24-year-old more confidence as she begins her quest to become a professional golfer, and ultimately play on the LPGA Tour.
Atienza said: “I felt that those to me were big achievements just because I’m not always used to travelling that far away from home and alone, so playing with a lot of these college golfers was a big thing. Also because I saw them as people who are very seasoned, competitive golfers so their mindset is very different.
“I’d always been in Singapore and if I kept competing in Singapore, you’re like a big fish in a small pond and a lot of people are scared to go into the ocean and get beaten up by the bigger competition out there but it’s something I’m not afraid to do.”
Turning professional is something that Atienza has been considering for some time.
At nine, she was introduced to the sport by her father and began attending lessons over the weekend with her brother and cousin. Her father bought a social membership at Seletar Country Club, which enabled her to enrol in a junior programme at a discounted rate.
That also gave her access to the course in the evening and she would play four to five holes before sunset. She also played at the public courses and travelled across the Causeway to practise.
She did not have regular private coaching owing to the cost, until she joined the national team in 2020.
After a stellar 2019 when she did well in a couple of school and national ranking tournaments, the Singapore Golf Association (SGA) invited her for an interview and trial.
Her golf career was hampered by the pandemic as she was unable to travel and compete overseas, but it allowed her to work on her fundamentals.
Since May, she has been in the United States to train and compete ahead of Stage I of the LPGA qualifying tournament, which begins in August.
The Singaporean has forked out about $13,000 for the trip, with part of the cost covered by the SGA and the EFG-SGA Elite Young Golfers Scholarship. The programme is part of a partnership between the association and Switzerland’s EFG Bank.
Competing in the US has been a learning experience for the self-professed perfectionist. She said: “They don’t really care if they lose and they don’t care if they’re not playing well.
“They just play the best that they can, which is just some stuff I’ve learnt over the past couple of years because you’re not going to win every single day as much as you want to and it just keeps you going forward.”
She knows that going through the LPGA Q-School will not be easy – there are two stages leading up to the third and final Q-Series, which grants LPGA Tour status to the top performers.
The budding professional has sought advice from golfer and close friend Amanda Tan, who in 2022 made history by becoming the first Singaporean to earn a card on the LPGA Epson Tour, the second tier of the women’s professional circuit in the US.
Plan B for Atienza, if she fails to secure a LPGA Tour spot, is to secure a Tour card in Chinese Taipei, Australia or Europe, before turning professional.
SGA national coach Murray Smit, who was appointed in April, believes Atienza has the potential to go far, noting that she has the physical attributes needed to be a top-level player.
While he acknowledged that she has some catching up to do as a late bloomer who started playing competitively later than others, the South African feels that the LPGA Tour is an obtainable goal if she keeps improving.
He said: “We have put a lot of time and effort into her wedge play, short game and putting since I arrived in Singapore.
“This will allow her to shoot really low on her best days, but more importantly, grind out under-par scores when she isn’t at her very best, the hallmark of most successful professional golfers.”