Dr Beng Teck Liang
CEO, Singapore Medical Group
An early start
I started playing at 11. My dad and grandfather were avid golfers, and my dad started me on lessons. I have very fond memories of family trips to places like the US, Thailand, Perth and Phuket – a number of my family members would get together and play golf. The sport is about camaraderie and having a good time.
Hitting the clubs in Thailand (the healthy way)
I lived in Thailand from 2009 to 2012, when I was the MD of a multinational IT company. Golf is a big thing in Thailand, and many senior executives and government officials play golf. It’s an opportunity to spend five to six hours on the golf course with them and get to know them on a personal basis, which helps to cement relationships and facilitate deals. I’ve comfortably closed multi-million-dollar deals while playing golf. And, after that, you have a nice meal and a couple of drinks, so that’s always nice.
Serious about having fun
I mainly play for fun here. But, once a year, there’s the Singapore Medical Association golf tournament, which is very well-attended, and I usually participate. A few of us who are better players are often selected for the Inter-Professional Games, where it’s basically Medical against Legal against Accounting, and so on.
And who does best?
Medical wins quite often. (Laughs.)
MD, The Wok People
I took up golf at 22. I was a sales executive. It was boring at first, because I was only at the driving range, hitting ball after ball. But, when I got more into the game, it got interesting. I started strategising and seeing different situations. Then, as I started to play with friends, and the group of friends kept expanding – that’s when I got addicted to the game.
Having a meeting? Ditch the conference room
A four-hour golf game with business partners or potential customers is definitely better than sitting in a conference room. Once, my golf kakis (slang word for “buddies”) referred a business contact to me. I was told that this guy was not an easy person to work with. A game was arranged and, during those four hours, we didn’t talk about business, but about golf and other things. We found that we clicked. After that, I followed up with e-mail and phone calls, and things moved smoothly from there. This person is my kaki till today.
Complete this sentence: If I weren’t playing golf, I would…
Be playing mahjong. (Laughs). Just kidding. Most likely, I’d be playing basketball. I used to play that in school but stopped.
CEO, Dentsu Aegis Network and Dentsu Singapore
You could work your butt off, or you could do this
In 1999, I was the regional marketing director for a fast-food company and wondered why I couldn’t close some discussions as easily as some of my colleagues. Then I discovered why. That four-letter word – golf. Golf helps business discussions and, sometimes, half the work is done on the course.
Laying the groundwork
A while ago, I played golf with my colleagues. You actually get to talk about quite a lot of important things on the golf course; and we got to agree on the broad strokes of a marketing plan for the year. And, when the meeting came around, we were already all in agreement, so we could just talk about the execution, which was great.
Self-improvement — meditation not required
Golf has taught me a lot: Stamina is important as the race is longer than you think. Be humble. Be gracious. Be a good sport. If I didn’t golf, I would be a less enlightened person. I would be less balanced and driven as a professional and leader. It’s a beautiful game on so many fronts. I just wish that I was a better golfer!
MD, CornerStone Wines
Our kind of coursework
I took up the sport in my final year at Arizona State University, which is famous for golf and has produced the likes of Phil Mickelson. Around that time, my dad told me he had started golfing. I thought golf was something we could share. He passed away from cancer in 2003, but I remember many of the times we shared, walking down the fairways onto the green.
Winning isn’t everything — sometimes
I remember golfing in China with our main customer, a wholesaler, in 2004. I wouldn’t say I threw the game, but I took the position of playing aggressively, which opens you up to making mistakes. (Laughs.) My handicap range at that time was significantly lower than his and, as he had beaten me, he had a lot of bragging rights. So you have a person who’s happy, out of his office environment, with friends, drinking beer, enjoying himself – and winning: It’s a winning combination.
Green no longer
I’ve been playing with some of my friends for more than 25 years. When they were younger, some would throw their clubs or curse when they made mistakes. Many have become more patient, and become better at course management and club selection. You can see how their mental and emotional states have improved over time, although, sadly, the majority of them haven’t improved physically. (Laughs.)