Wong Qi Wen, 17, is the first Singaporean to win a PGA (Professional Golfers’ Association) junior championship in the United States of America. From July 10 to 12, Qi Wen played well enough to win the Penn State leg of the PGA Junior Series with a 10-under 206 for a seven-stroke victory. At the same championship, he hit a career low round of nine-under-63.
Qi Wen followed up that historic win with another championship winning performance. At the PGA Junior Series event held at Purdue University from July 22 to 24, he finished with a one-under 215 (73–66–76) to capture his second PGA junior title in a month.
Qi Wen, formerly of the Singapore Sports School, is now studying and honing his golf at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida where he was named the academy golf program’s MVP (Most Valuable Player) for boys. In April 2013, he won the IMG Academy Match Play Tournament, sinking a hole-in-one during the tournament.
Qi Wen has a younger brother, Qi Meng, 14, and his father, Wong Kok Hoi, 55, a fund manager, kindly helped us out with this interview.
Les Tan: Congratulations on being the first Singaporean to win a PGA junior title. In fact, you now have two titles to your name. Has it sunk in yet, and how does it feel?
Qi Wen: Yes it has sunk in. Whenever anybody wins a golf tournament or even a competition, it feels great and it obviously boosts our confidence. I feel like my hard work has not gone to waste.
Looking back at the two tournaments, what stands out for you in your memory?
Qi Wen: The career 63 that I shot. After shooting that score, I was really proud of myself and I realize that not many people have accomplished that feat.
You received an exemption to play at the 38th Junior PGA Championships from July 30 to August 2. The tournament included all 2013 PGA Junior Series event champions, 41 PGA Section winers, Polo Golf and Golfweek’s top-ranked players and selected national junior tournament winners. How did you feel about playing in this tournament? (Qi Wen finished tied for 23rd. He was 3 over with a four round total of 287 [72–70–69–76].)
Qi Wen: It was obviously my biggest junior tournament that I have ever played. To play it in, I already felt like I belong in that elite field.
Coming off two victories, I was playing good golf and I just tried to carry that momentum to this tournament. I didn’t try to do anything different as I was sticking to my routine for the past few weeks and I won. I didn’t worry about how I was going to play but instead trust and believe in my golfing ability.
You started golfing when you were three. What are your earliest memories of playing golf? What is it about golf that you enjoy?
Qi Wen: My earliest memory was probably my father taking all my brothers to the range and we would hit balls. What I like about golf is that it is a game of imperfection. We are always trying to get better and we learn new things about the game daily.
You’ve gone through the Singapore school system and are now in the U.S. system. Tell us what are the major differences you have noticed in the two systems since you went to Florida three years ago? The good and the not so good.
Qi Wen: The major difference was the practice facility that the U.S. had compared to Singapore. In the U.S., we hit off grass during practice whereas in Singapore, we tend to stay under shelter and hit balls due to the heat. In Singapore, the academics is very challenging and tedious and it requires a lot of time. In the U.S., school for me is not a problem.
Q6: Tell us what a day or week is like for you at the IMG Academy.
Qi Wen: I get up at 6.30am and have breakfast. We have workouts from 7.30-8.30am. At 9.00am, the golf program starts and it lasts for three hours. School is 1.15 to 6.10pm. I have another workout session from 6.30-7.15pm. After that, back home and do my homework. I try to go to bed by 11pm.
When you are not playing or practicing golf, and are done with studying, what activities hold your interest?
Qi Wen: I enjoy watching movies. But besides that, I don’t really have much free time.
You are a member of the National Honor Society. We understand that it is more than just academic achievement. Tell us what you did that led to your selection.
Qi Wen: I carried a grade point average of 4.00 and to be a member of the National Honor Society, the requirement was a 3.8. In the National Honor Society, we help organize charitable events and help the society whenever we can.
Are there any other Singaporeans in the academy with you?
Qi Wen: Yes, only recently this year, a Singaporean, Vincent Dylastra, came over. He too is part of the Golf Academy. Three girls who are studying in the Singapore American School also came over for the summer camp. But there are almost no Singaporeans.