Even though she represented Singapore as a national player, golf wasn’t Catherine Kwek’s first choice when it came to taking up a sport as a child. “I was swimming competitively and my dad was my swimming instructor to start with”, she shares. However, at the age of 15, Catherine went through a transition in swimming. And then along came golf.
Over lunch and a beer at Pu Tien in Parkway, Catherine relates the story that her greatest achievement in golf is quite personal – it was basically just to prove a point to her father. “I was so used to competing and training every day, getting up at 4:30 am to go to the pool, then school, then pool again, study, sleep, eat etc. So as a teenager I was a bit lost and I didn’t know what I wanted to do.”
Her father suggested for Catherine to take up golf but she wasn’t keen at all to start with. She laughs, “I thought topping the ball was hitting the ball! My dad was so angry with me and said I was hopeless and I couldn’t get it right. So, I said, no I can and I’m going to prove you wrong. It’s that kind of competitive energy I had in me. I will try – I will prove you wrong.”
She continues, “He booked me for a lesson, and that one lesson has changed my life entirely. No regrets. And I really appreciate my father, the way he pushed me and because of golf there’s a lot of other things I have achieved and I‘ve learned a lot along the way.”
Within two years she became a single handicapper and in her fourth year was playing at a national level. She played in various regional Opens and represented Singapore at the 1993 SEA games. “We were a relatively new and inexperienced team but it was a really great experience and gave us an opportunity to be exposed to an international level. It was lovely to represent Singapore.”
Catherine is great company, funny and engaging, laughs a lot and is a good storyteller. One thing that I notice in the two or so hours we had together is her eyes literally sparkling when she talks about golf and, in particular, how important it is for her to make time to play a round.
The 10.8 handicapper tries to squeeze in a Saturday and Sunday game each week and has a regular kaki comprising women, men and juniors. She also spends time with the Warren juniors playing a round or two with them. During the week Catherine runs the Wholetrans logistics company. “It’s important as, number one, it’s because of my love of the game. I just feel very uncomfortable if I don’t play on the weekend. Even though I don’t play competitively much any more, I still want to maintain a certain level of standard in golf. I also try and play in Warren’s ladies events and participate in other clubs’ ladies events.”
In addition to her role as Lady Captain at Warren Golf & Country Club, Catherine, 44, was recently elected to the Singapore Ladies Golf Association (SLGA) Executive Committee as Honorary Secretary. She’s particularly pleased about the extension of the SLGA”s committee’s term to four years as she says it gives the whole committee a little more time to mature and that plans will be executed eventually given more time.
She also believes that she brings a lot to the SLGA table. “In terms of my golfing experience, in terms of passion in many other ways I should be able contribute to SLGA and also because I started golf when I was a junior and I’d like to see the young ones come up – more young ladies and girls to be able to reach a certain level – national level and more international recognized phase.”
Catherine adds, “And to work alongside SGA with our experiences. Sometimes we have to chaperone the young girls and that’s where we hope to play a part for them, take care of them, help them out with the game.” She is also looking forward to developing more events for the older golfers. “The whole circle of golfers is changing. It’s not just housewives any more. You have those who work, housewives, young and teenage golfers – golfers at different phases of life and different age groups. SLGA should be able to bring a lot of vibrancy in the way of developing women’s golf in Singapore.”
What’s important to you when playing golf?
Friendship is definitely important and then also interaction and competition. I still enjoy competitive golf because it keeps you going and keeps you focused on certain things. But the most important thing to me is friendship. I may golf mostly on weekends but during the week I still go down to the club, hang around, go to the range or gym and interact with the ladies.
Is there anything that you don’t like about golf?
Frankly, these days when people are too competitive and they’ve forgotten about sportsmanship. They’ve forgotten it’s a game where sportsmanship has to be played and sometimes golfers tend to forget that.
What do you like most about being Lady Captain at Warren Golf & Country Club?
When you see the satisfied smiles or looks from the ladies after every event. Sometimes a thank you from any of them. In my role, it’s very important to be around. You need to know what’s going on and be able to help out – to understand what the ladies and members’ needs are.
Who or what inspires you on course?
It’s really the love of the game. It gives me inspiration.
I’ve had two – on the third hole at both Raffles Country Club and Jurong Country Club during a league practice round and a league game.
Who would be with you inyour ideal flight?
Tiger Woods, SLGA President Lyn Sen – she’s one very competitive golfer and makes a good partner – and Ariya Jutanugarn.
What has been your best round?
It wasn’t a fantastic score – not my lowest – but it was one of the best rounds as I really scrambled to win, and I had to scramble each hole. It was the 2016 SICC Ladies Open. I shot an 82 and while it wasn’t fantastic, it was one of the best 82s I’ve played.
What hobbies do you have when not playing golf?
Walking, going to the gym, watching drama series and housework.
What’s in your bag?
A set of Yamaha irons; a full range of Callaway Epic woods including the driver; Scotty Cameron putter; Cleveland 60 degree wedge (still my favourite club) and Titleist Pro V1 balls.
What’s your beauty regimen?
I’m actually a lazy person so usually just lipstick. My skincare is standard, using moisturizer and sunblock, but the brands are from doctors’ clinics, as my skin is very sensitive.
Why should women take up golf?
Golf is very different from other sports – there’s a lot of self-discipline involved. For most of those who work and play golf, it’s good networking, which you don’t see so much in bowling, tennis or badminton. Golf is entirely different. I encourage them to take up golf for a lot of reasons including that can play it until you’re old and you can make new friends easily.
How do you juggle it all – work, golf, family?
Luckily my parents don’t need me too much as my brother is around. Most of my time is committed to work, golf, Warren and the SLGA. It ‘s just how you manage it. Of course, I have my freak out days, but I take it one step at a time.
Catherine Kwek is featured on the cover of Golf/Women Volume 12.
Photography by Mark Law, by Mark Law Studio (www.marklaw.com.sg)
Assisted by Alwin Oh
Styling by Jennifer Schoon
Makeup by Angel Gwee using Chanel
Hair by Jimmy Yap from Kenaris Salon
Special thanks to Chopard, Boss, FootJoy, Titleist and Adidas