Jason Hak Shun-yat’s favoured milk tea won’t need any sugar on Sunday night should victory in this week’s historic Clearwater Bay Open mark a sweet first professional win for Hong Kong’s number one.
Having departed the city for first Beijing and now Florida – specifically Orlando which is now his base – aged seven Hak only returns home once or twice a year with one of those stops usually for the Hong Kong Open where he made his name as a baby faced amateur in 2008.
He still retains some of those youthful attributes, but now as a 22-year-old professional it is wins rather than simply just playing all four rounds at an event that are the focus.
And with this week’s PGA Tour China Series Clearwater Bay Open giving Hak an extra excuse to return and sample some of his culinary favourites, that first success in the paid ranks is a really possibility for a player who has top 10 finishes in each of his last three events.
“I am really, really excited to be in the tournament and I am really excited to play some golf in Hong Kong,” said Hak, who arrived in the city on Saturday from the US via a short stop in Beijing.
“It has been a month off since the last tournament and I am ready to get back and play some good golf.”
Now this is professional sport and Hak has the same right as every one of the 120 players who will tee up at Clearwater Bay Golf Coutry Club starting on Thursday as the PGA Tour-backed series makes its first stop outside of the mainland.
Order of merit leader and new China number two Dou Zecheng has already won four times this year, American Charlie Saxon claimed victory last time out in Beijing in September and Zhang Xinjun mixed it with the stars of the game at last week’s WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai and claimed a credible tied for 21st place.
Watch: Behind the scenes – Jason Hak with Dou Zecheng and Charlie Saxon
Hak, though, knows what it is like to lead rounds on the tour this year after topping the leaderboard six times, although crucially not at the end of the fourth day.
That has raised some questions over his ability to produce when the pressure is on, but the level-headed Hak knows this and that is surely half of the battle.
“Every time I put myself there it is a time I put myself there and learn about myself to do a great thing, but I need to learn and it is a long, continued journey and getting better,” said Hak, who is recovering from an eye complaint which affected his weekend last time out in Beijing as he let slip the 54 hole lead.
“I have spoken to my coach, my Dad, my mental coach and will take the positives out of it and putting myself up there is a good thing and I just need to keep doing that and better things will happen.
“We have been working on it and to prepare myself mentally and skill wise to get better.”
This year’s showing on the China Series underlines Hak does have what it takes in his locker having bounced back from toiling away on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada and having not made a professional cut since the 2011 UBS Hong Kong Open until earlier this year.
Hong Kong golfer Jason Hak hopes he’s consigned dark days to history after wondering whether he should quit
That was at June’s Lanhai Open having taken his chance in Monday qualifying and Hak eventually finished tied for 21st in the rain-shortened event in Shanghai.
Hak does not have playing right on the tour and relies on invites and performances at previous events to find a way into the fields, with this week’s place courtesy of a fourth place finish at the Pingan Bank Open in Beijing last month.
That result, which lifted him into the top 1000 in the world rankings for the first time, had followed his best-ever result as a professional having finished tied for second at the previous weeks’ NewTown KingRun Open.
“Charlie is playing great, Dou is playing great, there is always a strong field and everybody in the tournament always has a chance to have a great week, but the real challenge is myself,” said Hak, who finds himself in 14th place on the order of merit having earned Ұ207,029 (HK$238,107) from six events this year.
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“If I can beat myself, I can take myself to the next step and capitalise on what I haven’t done. I know I have the game to compete with the guys and I am really looking forward to give my best and see how far it can get me.”
Hak will probably fall short of topping the money list this year, which offers the winner a full card on the second-tier of the PGA Tour with China’s Dou the runaway leader with over Ұ1 million in earnings, but could still claim a top five finish which would provide some playing rights on next year’s Web.com circuit, while he is also targeting a place in the tour’s qualifying school next month after this run of four China Series events.
The PGA Tour remains Hak’s main focus, so solid performances and even a win from the final four events of this year which all come in November starting this week could boost those hopes with Zhang currently fifth just over Ұ100,000 ahead.
“I got a lot of confidence and the results came unexpectedly. But also when you work and everybody is working hard you expect good play,” said world number 921 Hak.
Hong Kong amateur Isaac Lam must grow up quickly after landing PGA Tour China Series Clearwater Bay Open berth
“The Web.com is the next level and then the next goal is playing at the next level which is the PGA Tour, but you have to be patient. There are four more tournaments and I need to perform the best I can.
“There is finishing goals and there are goals I want to perform on the golf course. And for me as a player I want to focus on what I can do better on the course and the result will take care of itself.
“It has been a good year for me and a really good learning process for me, and that is why I am looking forward to the next couple of events to see what I have learned and see where it gets me.”