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Weekend Driver

We hit the fairways with Darryl O’Young, Hong Kong’s number one racer

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arryl O’Young is a cool guy. Very cool, in actual fact. I know this because whilst driving the Porsche Carrera we were zooming round Zhuhai International Circuit in, he answered his phone. There was me, the scared sick journalist, grabbing onto the door handle, my knuckles shining a bright white hue, too frightened to open my eyes and acknowledge the sharp right hand turn ahead of us. Darryl, meanwhile, is chatting away to the caller, completely oblivious to the apparent danger ahead. I shouldn’t have been that worried, of course. Darryl is, after all, Hong Kong’s premier motor racing driver. A man who races both in Europe, in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup—an event which seems him battling it out in front of crowds in excess of one hundred thousand—and in Asia, in the Porsche Carrera Cup, which he has won for the past two seasons. The guy knows how to drive, all right. He puts away his mobile, his eyes focused on the tarmac ahead, and tells me how much he’s looking forward to playing golf later. Of course! The reason I’m here is because Darryl has a new love—one that takes him away from the turbocharged engines, the glamorous post-race cocktail parties and the pit lane chicks. Darryl loves golf. “I think drivers and golfers are very similar in what they do,” Darryl says as we motor our way—by golf cart this time—to the first tee at Lakewood Golf Club, which neighbours the Zhuhai track. “When I’m driving, I’m not thinking about my technique, I’m not thinking about how to drive—it comes automatically. Good golfers are the same. When they swing, they’re not thinking about how they’re actually going to hit the ball—it’s automatic. They’re just doing what comes naturally to them.” Darryl, by his own admission, hasn’t yet reached that stage of his golfing career. But in fairness, he’s only been playing the game for a little over six months. This Lakewood jaunt is only his third time on the golf course. “I’m getting better,” he laughs, after connecting nicely with his second effort off the tee. [After skewing my own shot way right of the landing area, it was quickly decided that we’d be fairly liberal in the mulligan department]. “The first time I kept score I had 125, and the second 34

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time was 120. If I can continue at that rate I’ll be very happy.” Born and raised in Canada, Darryl was introduced to the world of motor sport at the age of eight by his father. A natural, Darryl progressed quickly through local competitions before becoming, in 2000, national karting champion of both Canada and the United States. “That was a definitely a big achievement for me,” remembers Darryl. “I always wanted to be in racing, and that year was special. It was a great platform from which I could build upon.” His abilities behind the wheel confirmed, Darryl had little trouble finding cars to drive. A stint in Formula Ford (three wins and two runner-ups in five races) was followed by invitations to compete in Formula Renault and an eclectic range of events, including endurance and sprint racing. Darryl takes road safety very seriously

O’Young at Zhuhai International Circuit, July 2008 WWW.HKGA.COM

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HK GOLFER・SEPT/OCT 2008

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for being a little highly strung. Not Darryl. He was constantly cracking jokes and laughing at himself after any errant shots. “People have that impression,” he says when I bring up the matter. “But most of the drivers are pretty relaxed guys. When we’re driving we’re focused, of course— we have to be. But you have to chill out as much as possible away from the track. That’s part of the reason why I love golf.” Darryl tasted success early on arrival in Asia. Victory at the Macau Grand Prix (his favourite track and where he currently holds the lap record) in 2005 was followed a year later by his maiden Carrera Cup Asia championship title. That success helped him become, in 2007, the first Chinese driver to make the leap to the Europe-based Porsche Supercup. “It’s another level,” admits Darryl. “The difference between qualifying in pole position and somewhere way down the field can be as little as two-tenths of a second. I’ve enjoyed it. I haven’t had the results I would have liked so far, but I’m still learning the tracks. I’m looking forward to a strong rest of the season.” After nine holes, and 57 shots, Darryl is well on course to beat his personal best. His driving (on this track at least) has been a little wayward, but he’s struck some sweet irons and his short game has been extremely solid. His swing is nice and compact and when he times it well, the ball flies vast distances. I’m no pro, but he clearly has potential by the bucketload. “I wish I could play more,” he bemoans. “I try to go to the driving range when I can, but it’s not easy during the season. I’ll really make an effort to get on the course more and take some lessons.” Unfortunately, after just a few more holes, an enormous thunderstorm descends on the course meaning a return to the clubhouse and an end to our game. On the way back I ask him how far he really wants to go with his golf. “I don’t have any expectations,” he says. “I’d like to improve, obviously, and become more consistent, but I don’t see myself becoming a really good player. I love golf, but I’m happy just playing it for fun.” I don’t believe a word of it. Fun or not, for someone as naturally competitive as Darryl, there’s no way he won’t motivate himself to improve. Single figures? Watch this space.

Having a laugh: Darryl after a less than perfect shot 36

In 2004 Darryl made the decision to move to Hong Kong where he joined Team Jebsen and began competing in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia. The move to the SAR, says Darryl, was logical. “My family is from Guangdong; we speak Cantonese back in Canada and I love the city. I wanted to try racing in Asia and it’s worked out. Hong Kong is definitely home for me now.” To follow Darryl’s progress in the Porsche Mobile1 By anyone’s standards, Darryl is a remarkably relaxed guy. In the afternoon we spent together SuperCup and Porsche Carrera Cup Asia visit his he was charm personified and displayed none blog at www.darryloyoung.com. of the Michael Schumacherlike stroppiness that I had been What’s in Darryl’s Bag? expecting from a man in his Driver: TaylorMade r7 CGB Driver 10.5 (S Flex) profession. I wouldn’t blame him Woods: TaylorMade r7 CGB – 3 & 5 (S Flex) if he did: when you’re regularly Irons: TaylorMade Tour Burner – 4-SW (NS950; S Flex) driving bumper-to-bumper at Putter: TaylorMade Rossa Tourismo 240 km/h you can be forgiven

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City Golf

The newly-opened Els Club

Desert Miracle Tee it up in Dubai, the burgeoning mecca of Middle East golf STORY BY ALEX JENKINS

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ne of my earliest golfing memories was watching my father hack his way around the sand course at the Dubai Country Club. The year was 1986 and this was the extent of this tiny emirate’s golf: nine holes crudely shaped out of the desert scrub with no grass. My father had to carry around an astroturf mat to hit the ball off before sweeping the ‘browns’—a peculiar mixture of compacted sand and oil that made for greens— once he’d holed out. In those halcyon days, the club was just another expatriate hangout where mad dogs and Englishmen would play a quick round under a blazing noon day sun before retiring to the verandah for an afternoon spent in a gin and tonic-induced haze. HK GOLFER・SEPT/OCT 2008

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