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Of producing new golfers
Published on: Sunday, January 01, 2017

By Datuk John Lo
WHEN Datuk Peter Khoo and his committee took over SGCC last year [May 2015], one of their major objectives was to regain the supremacy of junior golf for Sabah.

Those who have been playing golf for many years would have noticed that Sabah young golfers were outstanding in Malaysia and from among them, several have gained Federal scholarships to study in USA and other countries.

Notably, Young Sabahans have shined at national and international tournaments. More than that, a few Sabah youngsters have turned professionals and have won several tournaments in the Asian Tour which is the top professional tour circuit in this part of the world.

Between those who have made it in earlier years and now, there is a huge gap in young golf talents from Sabah.

Somehow and suddenly, the talents have dried up. More heart breaking is that nowadays, no young Sabahan golfers have taken the No. 1 spot at the national level. We were the dominant force then. Our youngsters have even failed to get decent placings in the 2015 Sabah international golf tournament for young golfers. All the winners were from either other parts of Malaysia or from other countries. The initiative of Peter and his committee to inject new energy on the SGCC Junior Golf Development Programme is an important step to regain the top spots that Sabah has lost for many years.

They have engaged pro Fraser who is now producing some very positive result judging from the enthusiasm of the youngsters and their score cards, parents and even some dotting grandparents held recently at SGCC.

Some of them have come from as far away as Keningau. I could not help but be very impressed and amused at the same time to learn that a 7-year boy pestering his mom to wake him up 5.30am for golf each morning during the just concluded SGCC Junior Open! Yes, it was 5.30 am – no mistake about it – so that he would not miss the action.

Such incredible commitment from such a young fella! Golf must have inspired him somewhere, somehow!

Attracting parents to encourage their young ones to play golf is not as easy as some may think. Time is a factor.

Dedication is another, besides money. The biggest challenge must be to create, instil interest in the youngsters and keep their enthusiasm going.

This Peter and his band of “merry gofers”, ably assisted by Pro Fraser have succeeded more than anyone can expect within a short time. Obviously, Pro Fraser must have done a fantastic job on the kids, judging from their “best of the Tiger Wood’s swings”. So much joy to see these young golfers swinging the golf clubs like the professionals on Golf Channel!

To develop golf talent, like any other endeavour, needs dedication and sacrifices from the organising committee.

Long may their efforts continue. Golf is not just for winning, or some parents having a golf career for their children in mind.

This is a good thing and should be encouraged. Nothing wrong with that! I say this because golf, more than many other sports, is a good training ground for the moulding of good characters. Golf has remained, since its beginning, very much a gentleman’s game, the basis of which is honesty of the player to himself. Youngsters will be imbued with the quality of self-policing their own scores/strokes. Golf has all the attributes in turning youngsters into good, solid and disciplined citizens of the future.

Convinced as I am that golf is good for young Sabahans, I am writing this article in the hope that the junior golf programme that Khoo and his team have formulated can be expanded and made more accessible for many more children.

So far, they have raised the necessary funds from parents, club members and well-wishers.

Expansion and sustainability of this junior golf programme will need more funding sources so that many more aspiring children whose parents may not be members of a golf club can have the chance to take up golf. Such an idea is quite common in many advanced countries where golf is no longer considered an elitist or exclusive game.

More funding availability is critical for two reasons. [a] Regular tournaments can be held. This is important for the young golfers to sharpen their skills. [b] The very best can be sent to participate in national and international tournaments.

In this way, Sabah will be able to produce winners at the highest level of golf.

Talking about funding for the Junior Golf Programme, official recognition and some seed money from the Ministry of Youths and Sports will be a good start. Such an official recognition will go a long way to opening doors of corporate sponsors and other organisations.

The up-coming “International Junior Golf Tournament” at SGCC will be an eye opener. SGCC which is Sabah’s oldest 18-hole course and reputedly the toughest in this part of the world, is the best training ground for our young golfers.

All Sabahan golf professionals have gone through their “baptism of fire” in SGCC. Visitors have been heard to say, shaking their heads at the same time, that SGCC is the very toughest. If you can play well in SGCC, you can practically conquer any course in the world.

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