Autistic golfer Sarawak’s ‘best kept’ secret

Hockey is a sport for white men. Basketball is a sport for black men. Golf is a sport for white men dressed like black pimps.

— Tiger Woods

If I claim to be the first person to score a hole-in-one at the Sarawak Constabulary golf course more than 50 years ago, then you will either think I am boasting or at worst — lying.

Firstly, few people remember the small golf course my father John Ritchie built around Fort Margherita in 1968 or could ever imagine the pride and joy that comes with a hole-in-one.

According to Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, who witnessed the feat at the 9-hole par-three course 52 years ago: “Yes, I saw the ball roll into the hole with one shot.”

I have queried the non-golfer several times saying: “I’m not sure I ever scored a hole-in-one because that is a golfer’s dream and as far as I know I am still looking for the elusive ace!”

According to the US Hole-In-One Association knocking the tee shot into the hole on a par-3 is around 12,500 to 1.

Not boasting, but I started playing golf in Alor Setar when I was 10 and at the age of 18, could have been playing to a single handicap.

In those days not many Sarawakians knew how to play golf until the Prisons Department built a short 11-hole course around the 7th Mile prison-cum-detention centre in 1963.

Sadly, the Prisons Department’s labour of love had to make way for that painful thing called “development”.

Indeed, one of the first VVIPs who loved golf was none other than Tun Abdul Rahman Yakub when he became chief minister from 1970 till 1981.

When he became governor in 1981, he started building Sarawak’s first international golf course — Kelab Golf Sarawak (KGS) in Petra Jaya.

He recruited the services of the Sarawak Prisons staff, who were involved in the design of what is now a 36-hole championship course.

In my first tournament at KGS in 1982, I became champion of the Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Abdul Rahman Yakub challenge trophy.

Meanwhile in Miri, an autistic boy, Hafiz, was born to Customs officer Haji Mura Kadir!

The apple of Mura’s eye, Hafiz had a speech impediment until he was 13 and it was through golf that he gained his confidence and self-esteem.

As an amateur, he was part of the Sarawak junior squad and his handicap was as low as four, and he created a Malaysian golfing record by shooting six aces in 15 months between 2000 and 2001 at KGS.

His father recalled: “At six years old, Hafiz was big and tall for his age and enjoyed taking a ride on my golf buggy whenever I played during weekends.

“As a child, he could just mumble his words but he was happiest on the golf course.”

Hafiz was 17 when he won the Sarawak Junior Invitational and then played in the Thailand Amateur.

In 2001, he was set to play in the SEA Games when he fell ill with appendicitis.

By then, the golfing prodigy began a streak of aces — his first two at the 208-yd par-3 17th at the Demak nine on March 2 and 21, 2000. In 2001, he had four more — at Demak Nine on Jan 23, twice at Santubong Nine on Feb 10 and March 5, the sixth ace on June 10 at the 6th hole Siol Nine.

Hafiz, who hits a 370yd drive and has 11 eagles to his credit, said: “It was my father who encouraged me and my siblings to take up golf. In fact, my three brothers Firdauzmora, Faizalkadir and Nor Faizal were in the same flight when I scored my third ace in 2001.”

Hafiz had to give up golf because his father could not afford to fork out RM500 every month for the boys.

After Haji Mura retired in 2006, Hafiz stopped playing golf, married and was without a job until recently.

Finding it challenging to raise his own autistic son, Hafiz applied for a job as an assistant golf coach in Sarawak’s Ministry of Sport but has yet to receive a reply.

Despite everything, Hafiz is still hopeful that someone will eventually heed his call.

All I can say is just pray and hope that the authorities can lend a helping hand.

Note: World golfing champion Tiger Woods scored 20 hole-in-one, achieving this in 2000 and 2001 when he was 26 years old. Hafiz’s six aces in 15 months could be a Malaysian record.

The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.