I picked up a golf club at the tender age of five. It was simply to swing a club and knock around a few balls on the course at Nuwara Eliya. My grandfather Marimuttu, was a tractor driver cum green keeper, at Nuwara Eliya Golf Club and since we lived near the course my brother Soundrarajah and I would regularly peek over the fences in awe as golfers played on the course. To hear the club strike the ball was sweet music in my ear.
We wanted to play golf. Oh yes, there was never a day that we did not mimic a golf swing in our abode. Of course, we did not have access to clubs, so improvisation was the only resort. We would cut branches off trees and pretend that they would do. I got my break at the age of eleven when I became a ball boy at NEGC. I was officially in the Park! At the age of twelve, I entered the Junior Caddie tournament. There were three categories in this tournament. I was placed third in category 3 when I was 14. That was in 1994 and my handicap was 22. I went on to be second in
1996, and winner at the age of 16 in 1997.
I have never been coached. I taught myself by watching others play. I have modeled my swing by watching great players, both locally and overseas and thereafter copying it to my comfort levels. My real break came when I won the Caddie’s tournament. I was called to the National Pool. I was then selected to tour Malaysia for the World Cup qualifying tourney with the great Nandasena Perera and played alongside him. That was my initiation to golf at a high level. I molded myself by watching Nandasena at a ring side view. I realised that I had to play golf professionally.
I went on to achieve success through winning the following. In 2003 – Winner, Sri Lanka Amateur Open NEGC; 2007 All India Amateur Open, India; 2009 Sri Lanka Amateur Open, NEGC; 2013 Sri Lanka Open, RCGC. Then finally, in 2010 I turned Professional. Winning the PGTI at Coimbatore in 2014 has boosted my confidence. I am now playing in the Indian Pro circuit.
If not for the support of Nuwara Eliya Golf Club I would at best have continued to be a Caddie. It would be remiss of me if I do not thank those many benefactors who opened doors for me along the way. They are too numerous and more so they would be embarrassed if I mention their names. But I must also thank the Sri Lanka Golf Union for continuing to support the sport even with the meagre earnings they possess.
I would like to continue in the Indian tour for another four to five years before taking a crack at the Asian Circuit. I have plans to continue golf at a professional level for another ten or twelve years and then move on to coaching/teaching for which I am in preparation.
I have a young family to bring up and am grateful to the sport for giving me an opening to achieve something more than my station of birth would have allowed me. I hope others would take heart and go on to achieve greater heights now that more golf courses are being opened in Sri Lanka. With the Golf Union supporting the game there is opportunity for anyone with talent and dedication to go far. Sri Lankans are blessed with a high level of hand/eye coordination and this advantage should be made use of by sportsmen.
The Sri Lanka Golf Union has put in place an excellent structure for beginners and talented golfers though yet confined to Colombo. I do hope that Nuwara Eliya emulates this to give children from this area an opportunity.