During the week, she is in her office providing legal services to her clients. On weekends, she is almost always on the golf course, playing the sport or guiding other golfers. Life, to Candi Anna Chan, is about juggling the law and golf.
Chan has been a practicing solicitor in Hong Kong for more than 27 years and is a consultant at LCP Lawyers. She is also Deputy Chairman of Rules, Chairman of the Championship Committee of the Hong Kong Golf Association and Tournament Director of Ladies Asian Golf Tour. In the early 2000s, she was the very first Chinese female golf referee in Hong Kong.
Chan started playing golf more two decades ago, and the vast green spaces got her hooked onto the sport.
“When you walk on the 18-hole golf course, with the greenery surrounding you, you can put your mind at ease and forget about reality for a while,” she says. “You stay focused on playing well. You can unwind for four hours playing golf. Legal work can be tedious sometimes.”
Perhaps it is also aspect of legal work that prompted Chan to look for something that offers more variety.
“Unlike a tennis court or basketball court, every golf course is different and has different features,” says Chan. “Golf is a special sport. There are long and short swings. One shot can make it 20 yards or 200 yards. You need to think thoroughly before making a shot. It’s not just about your technique. You also need to use your brain.”
Starting as a Golf Referee
“Once you have reached a certain level after years of playing golf, you may want to participate in competitions. There are so many rules though,” she says.
So Chan decided to learn the rules herself, believing that learning the rules would make her a better golfer.
“By knowing the rules, you are not only helping others at tournaments, but also your own game,” says Chan. “I definitely benefited from learning the rules, as I could stay calm and found out how to deal with different situations.”
This passion for golf and her push to learn the rules eventually led her to a new role as a golf referee. She attended the Rules School in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2000 and then the Referees’ School at St. Andrews in Scotland in 2002. When she qualified, she became the first Chinese female golf referee.
The Hong Kong Open became part of European Tour in 2001, and that was when Chan started working with and learning from European Tour referees.
“I learned so much by working side by side with these world-class referees, watching how they handled different situations. This is so different from the amateur games. Most of the tournaments in Hong Kong are for amateurs, but the Hong Kong Open – part of European Tour – is a professional one,” she says.
Today, she’s no longer the only woman standing among the male referees.
“When I first started there were no other female referees. But later, some of my friends also qualified to be referees, which makes us a team of five or six now,” she says.
Chan’s path from golfer to referee has seen her experience many things, and created many memories.
“Serving as a referee in the Ladies Asian Golf Tour gave me the opportunity to visit countries that I had never stepped foot in, such as India. I also got to travel to Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, and so forth,” she says.
Some of the best moments for Chan have been meeting the best golfers in the world, an experience that still gets her pulse racing.
“At the Royal Trophy 2007 in Thailand, which had competing teams representing Europe and Asia, I got to meet a few of the prominent professional players such as Henrik Stenson, Robert Karlson, Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke, Tonjai Jardee and Jeev Milkha Singh,” says Chan.
“I was so overwhelmed. Jeev Milkha Singh, in particular, was the number one player on the Asian Tour at that time.
“Usually at the Hong Kong Open, you get assigned to one position to watch the players play. But in this match play tournament, you can follow the team to different holes to see how they play. Each team got assigned a referee. I had the chance to see, from a short distance, how these professional players handled each shot. This, again, is very different from us amateur players,” she says.
Spreading the Word
“As an avid golfer, of course playing the sport is always the best part. You get to spend time with your friends. But I’m not a particularly good player. I only play at the club level. Golf is only a leisure activity for me,” she said. “But I also enjoy making a contribution to the sport.”
Chan’s role as a golf referee has evolved from being a trainee to training others. She now gives talks and seminars on golf rules to golfers and referees.
She plays herself, but seeing the professional at the top of their game is a big part of the joy of the sport for her.
“I enjoy watching the professional golfers, especially seeing how the local golfers progress and gain a presence on the world stage,” Chan adds.
Her contribution to the sport went from working with golfers to organizing big events. She drew experience from years of taking part in different tournaments. One time she served as a guest referee in Wales as part of the European Tour.
“After joining these international tournaments for years and learning how they were organized, I organized the Hong Kong Ladies Open in 2015,” says Chan.
Now in its fourth year, the tournament draws players from 16 countries including Japan, Korea, Australia, mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong to compete at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling. The tournament is sanctioned by the China Ladies Professional Golf Athletics, Taiwan Ladies Professional Golf Association and Ladies Asian Golf Tour.
Her efforts have helped golfers step onto the professional path. One young female player that benefited from this is Tiffany Chan Tsz-ching, a 24-year old Hong Kong-born golfer who is now a world-class professional.
“Tiffany won the Hong Kong Ladies Open in 2016. The ranking points she earned put her on course for a berth in the 2016 Summer Olympics,” says Chan. “We fostered an Olympic player. The Hong Kong Ladies Open is a stepping stone for Tiffany’s career as a professional golfer.”
“I watched Tiffany grow. I’ve been watching her play since she was seven years old. It’s a great satisfaction to see her progress over the years,” Chan says.
Without a doubt, there have been ups and downs in organizing the tournament, which is much more challenging than her legal work.
“I’ve been practicing since I graduated, so I am familiar with what I do in the legal field,” said Chan. “Organizing a tournament is something I am not familiar with, though. It made me look at the world in a different way.”
“As a lawyer, people come to you for help and you are respected. As an organizer, you are now reaching out to people for their help. The roles are reversed.”
Chan said it took the team six to nine months to organize the tournament.
“In the very beginning you had to find the sanctioning bodies and sponsors, get the ranking points recognized and sign contracts,” she said.
“I organized the event for three years. Now I have left the work to the others after laying the foundation. Organizing is not an easy task, but once you see the results you will feel fulfilled – that your hard work paid off,” Chan says.
Between the Law and Golf
Chan’s satisfaction comes not only from engaging in the sport but also in helping others – which is not different from the satisfaction she gets from her legal work.
“Being a referee is a kind of service. It is the same as being a lawyer. You help people – whether they are clients or golfers - solve problems,” said Chan.
“You can help the players. Golf rules are complicated. Only a few people really understand them thoroughly. If players meet with problems, they need referees to guide them through the problems to advance,” she adds.
Chan says she leads a simple life, and is either in the office or on the golf course.
“I don’t really have other hobbies. I have spent all my holidays and spare time serving as a referee ever since I have become one,” says Chan.
Striking a balance between work and golf can be a challenge, sometimes.
“One time I had to stay in Wales for 12 days. That’s a big time difference. Thanks to modern technology, I could work remotely, contact my secretary and get help from other lawyers. But the time difference made it difficult for me to work with my colleagues in Hong Kong,” she said. “Therefore, when they invited me to be their guest referee again, I had no choice but to turn it down.”
This has not stopped her being a referee, though. She now opts to take part in tournaments in Asia, where the time difference is not a factor.
And Chan attributes much of her success as a referee to her legal background.
“My years of legal training have helped me resolve disputes. I was also appointed as a magistrate for three months. The training and experience gave me an upper hand in settling disputes. I ask questions and replay situations,” says Chan.
“Legal training is training in logic. When resolving disputes, you look at the case step-by-step to find the root cause. This allows me to handle disputes calmly and apply my legal training to the case when it comes to any dispute,” she notes.