Golf: Singapore’s James Leow wins Thunderbid Collegiate; selected for Arnold Palmer Cup

SINGAPORE – Having played in the United States since January 2018, national golfer James Leow has learned many things. One of them is to manage the nerves and pressure associated with competing.

At last week’s Thunderbird Collegiate, they put what they learned to good use, staying cool after trailing by one shot overnight to eventually prevail thanks to a final round five-under 66.

He managed 17 birdies and just five bogeys in 54 holes and finished on 14-under 199, two clear of Caden Fioroni (63) and Bastien Amat (68) who were joint-second at the Papago Golf Club in Phoenix, Arizona.

Previous winners of the event include PGA Tour stars Phil Mickelson (1991, 1992), Jon Rahm (2014, 2015 and 2016) and Paul Casey (2001), all of whom are from Arizona State University like Leow.

The Singaporean, 25, was pleased to end his regular season in college at a high, which was his main motivation for doing well in the tournament.

He told The Straits Times: “This win means a lot to me because it’s my last tournament in the regular season for college golf and I had (hip) surgery in December 2020 and was out for a year due to rehab.

“I was slowly getting back to my game and was decent in the summer but not great. A lot of work has been put into getting myself into the right shape physically and mentally. This proves that, with the support of my coaches and family “I can compete against the best amateurs in the world.”

Leow, who is studying finance and graduates next month, also won the Southwestern Amateur tournament in June 2021.

In between, however, he injured his lower back and left hip again and was out for three weeks before changing his training plan to cater for his Rehabilitation process and focus on being more consistent in his strokes.

He said: “All the small stuff leads to big gains in my game. My coaches and I have talked about (working on) certain parts of my swing and making my shots more consistent.

“There’s definitely an advantage for us (ASU players) because we play there regularly so we know what to expect. But (it’s different) playing against a tough field (of 88) under pressure and there were nerves because it was in front of home fans. “Having a strategy and the proper Mindset going into the tournament helped me focus on the more important stuff rather than have the external stuff distracting you.”

As he closes out his college career, Leow said it has taught him to have fun rather than get nervous, adding: “I’ve learned a lot about humility and adaptation. Being quick to adapt to conditions and get comfortable so that you can just play and let it flow, rather than have so much pressure on you. “

He will now turn his attention to the April 25-27 Pac-12 Conference in Seattle and the National Collegiate Athletic Association golf Regionals, where the top three teams will qualify for the NCAA next month.

While Leow will not defend his SEA Games gold medal at next month’s edition in Hanoi because of school commitments, he will feature at the Hangzhou Asian Games in September.

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