Hobnobbing with the kings of sport!

Always make a total effort, even when the odds are against you.

—  Arnold Palmer, American golf professional

If polo is the sport of kings, what is the king of sport?

If you think it is soccer then you are wrong.

According to a survey, golf is the most popular sport in the world with 60 million people and far exceeds other.

I started golfing at the age of 10 in Alor Star when my father, a six handicapper, was captain of the Kedah Golf and Gymkhana Club.

Since the golf course was directly in front of our residence, my normal routine after school would be to walk across the road, bare bodied, and barefoot, armed with a seven iron.

Better a golf club rather than a catapult which the kampung boys preferred.

Chot, Don and Piee — short for Mansor, Saadon and Shafiee — used the catapult for entertainment, sadly at the expense of the birds and other wildlife.

But father had other plans for a restless boy who preferred climbing trees, hunting or swimming in the filthy river.

One day, I was assigned to carry Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman’s heavy golf bag as there were no caddies available.

And that was the beginning of my golfing adventures.

At 18, my father built the first Sarawak police golf course played over seven par-three holes on the steep slopes of Fort Margherita.

I was its inaugural champion.

In 1977 as Negeri Sembilan’s NST correspondent, I joined the Seremban International Golf Club (SIGC) and was soon hobnobbing with VIPs.

It was a matter of time before I mastered the narrow 18-hole course and became a golf “shark”.

Needless to say, I ended up playing at most of the golf courses in Malacca, Selangor, Perak, Kedah and Penang. 

In 1977, I became runner-up in the two-day Malaysian Intermediate Golf Championship and the following year, champion.

One day, I had a call from the Negri Sembilan Yang Dipertuan Besar (Yamtuan) Tuanku Jaafar.

Johnny said: “Be at SIGC at 4pm. Tee-off time 4.45 … you are partnering Tuanku!”

This was my first time playing with royalty and realised that I could not fumble because the Yamtuan had friendly matches with Johnny, an affable Chinese businessman.

A gentleman King, his father Tuanku Abdul Rahman (not to be mistaken with the prime minister) was the first Yang di-Pertuan Agong when Malaya became independent in 1957.

It was a great honour to be seated on the “Royal Table” next to the sporting “King” who in the presence of our rivals said tongue-in-cheek: “We must beat Johnny and his partner.”

But no problem, because some golfers would deliberately lose to please the boss!

In any case, we won hands down.

My next encounter was with Sarawak’s Tun Abdul Rahman Yakub who celebrated his birthday at the brand-new Sarawak Golf Club, better known as KGS in 1982.

Having been crowned Malaysian Mass Media champion in 1980, at Selangor’s Subang Nasional Golf Club KGS, I won hands down.

As champion, I was given a first-class ticket to Singapore to join Tun Rahman and his entourage for a birthday bash!

But there was more to come!

Sultan Iskandar of Johore, the new Malaysian Yang di-Pertuan Agong was visiting Sarawak.

Covering an unofficial dinner at Rose Woods, the palatial residence of philanthropist Datuk Sri Ang Lai Soon, the Agong got word that I was a singer-cum golfer.

In fact, his son-in-law to be was the “Crown Prince” of Pahang, a top sportsman and international polo player.

Early that, I packed my batik shirt and headed to the RMAF base for a flight to Kapit by “Kerbau” — the nickname of the lumbering de Havilland DHCV4 Caribou with other members of the entourage.

I survived seven days with Sultan Iskandar as a member of his entourage which brought me to Kapit, Bintulu and Miri.

Although I was not his golfing partner, I was on the same flight with Sultan Iskandar’s youngest daughter whom I visited a year before Covid-19.

It was in Johore I met a Sarawakian named “Miri” who was adopted into the Johore royal family when they were visiting Miri.

By 1997, I had stopped being a journalist and put aside golf to further my career.

But circumstances led to more hobnobbing when I became public relations officer with Chief Minister Tun Taib Mahmud and biographer for Governor Tun Ahmad Zaidi Adruce for two years.

In fact, I spent most of my time at the Istana, often having a cuppa in the servant’s quarters with Tun Zaidi and Toh Puan.

We even spent several weeks touring Kalimantan and West Java, meeting old friends and haunts when he was a young revolutionary.

In the late-90s, Tuanku Jaafar became the 10th Yang di-Pertuan Agong and visited Kuching and we met.

Unfortunately, I was unable to play a game but I caught up with the King and we reminisced about the good old golfing days.

My last championship was when I won the Deputy Chief Ministers’ Tan Sri Dr George Chan’s Challenge Trophy in the annual “Heritage Cup” on November 23, 2008 by a single stroke.

Sadly, a month later, Tuanku Jaafar passed away on December 27, 2008.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.