Former pro golfer Choo Tze Huang steps outside the ropes for post-playing career
For much of the past decade, golfer Choo Tze Huang’s focus on the course was on firing birdies, sinking putts and making the cut.
These days, the 37-year-old pays attention to very different details, such as the amount of water needed to quench thirsty players and spectators at a tournament.
While seemingly trivial, Choo has learnt over the last few months that these are little things that matter as he spends more time outside the ropes with his company Palladium.
The company, which was set up in late 2023 after he retired from professional golf in the same year, specialises in sports events, advisory and player management.
Its first event was the US$750,000 (S$1 million) Simone Asia Pacific Cup in Jakarta in December 2023, and Choo and his team are currently preparing for the March 7-10 Hana Financial Group Singapore Women’s Open.
It has been a steep learning curve for Choo, who admitted he was surprised by the logistics required to organise a successful tournament.
“Things that are as simple as finding out how much water you need to run the event. What’s the allocation like for different areas? We need to make sure it’s never empty,” said Choo, who won a bronze and silver at the 2005 SEA Games.
“It takes time to plan and experience to know what the flow is like. It’s a learning process for me.”
This was initially not on the cards for Choo, who had not planned to call time on his career so soon as he was looking to play and teach part-time.
But his father’s death in March 2023 changed things. His father’s business, which is the distributor for Malaysian brand Crestlink golf apparel, did well in 2022 and a family decision was made for Choo to take over.
He said: “It was a challenge, there were many things I didn’t know. I just knew that when a customer came, you told them the price of the shirt but there’s obviously more to that.
“I had to sit down for a day or two to understand and learn about the material of the shirts, the production of the shirts, what it’s made of, and the quality and the finer details.”
His mother, who is a retiree, also helps out, especially when he has to travel to meet business contacts.
Then came the added responsibility of Palladium, which came about through discussions with Choo’s former manager and friend Patrick Feizal Joyce, who has 25 years of experience in the golf industry.
Joyce estimates that he has worked on over 200 events in the region, including the Singapore Open, and across various tours such as the PGA Tour of Australasia and the Asian Tour.
The duo’s desire to grow the game here led to the establishment of Palladium. Choo said: “Singapore is a wealthy country as compared to our neighbouring countries but the development of golf has not been as strong as compared to Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and even the Philippines, we’re not producing a lot of golfers as compared to those countries.
“This conversation has been going on for many years and this opportunity came and we shared this vision to try to enhance the ecosystem of golf in Singapore, starting an agency that hopefully, his plan in the years to come will be run by locals.”
While these are new ventures for Choo, he hopes to use his experience to help the business, especially on the player management front.
The company is in talks with golfers in the region and it already represents some players from Thailand.
Many of the active golfers are his peers and he knows how challenging life can get.
Choo remembered how in one of his early starts, he earned US$10,000 for finishing second, but the prize money went into covering his expenses for the next couple of events.
At one point, he chose Malaysia as a home base to save on costs and to get more playing and training opportunities.
Apart from bringing in international events to give local players exposure, Choo hopes for a domestic league one day, citing examples like Thailand which have strong local competitions.
Their objective is to create more opportunities for Singaporean athletes and local companies, said Joyce, who added that “we want to elevate the skill set and experience of as many young people with an ambition or desire to be involved in major sports events”.
There is no doubt about Singapore’s ability to draw world-class events, with the 2024 calendar to include the HSBC Women’s World Championship, LIV Golf and the DP World Tour’s Singapore Classic.
There is possibly room for more high-profile events, said Joyce, but he stressed: “It has to be different, unique, either from the format or the participants or both. And it really should deliver value to the stakeholders and the broader golf ecosystem.”