Harnessing Strength

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Kuala Lumpur, May 21: Tomorrow, delegates representing affiliated golf clubs from across Malaysia will congregate at the A’Famosa Golf Resort in Melaka for the Malaysian Golf Association’s annual general meeting, where they will cast their votes for a new lineup to take the association forward for its next two-year term.

Throwing his hat into the ring for the position of president is former Chief of the Armed Forces and president of the Royal Selangor Golf Club Admiral (R) Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Mohd Anwar Mohd Nor (left), who is involved in a two-cornered contest with incumbent Dato’ Robin Loh.

In between light-hearted banter on how he dived for golf balls in his youth, Mohd Anwar shares the inspiration behind his decision to bid for the association’s presidency and his hopes for Malaysian golf in this maiden edition of The ClubHouse Exclusive.

What was your earliest memories of golf? How did you get started?
I actually started golfing on the beautiful island of Labuan in 1976, where I was posted as a naval officer there. It was picturesque nine-hole golf course, if I remember it right. But going back, as a small boy, I used to dive to pick up golf balls. I was staying at the HMS Terror(Royal Navy barracks) next to the Singapore Naval Base, where my father served as a member of the naval police. So you can guess how I got my love for the sea and the navy.

There was a nine-hole golf course for the Navy and many times, the golfers will mishit their balls into this 15-20 feet pool in the sea. So, I will dive to collect those balls and of course, sell them back as recycled balls and earn some pocket money. That was my first exposure to golf and I told myself that one day, I will pick up the game.

I’m not sure if I was talented or what but within a year of playing the game,I had brought down my handicap to 12. At one point, I played as low as eight. I was an active hockey player, so I was able to transfer the knowledge and the basic fundamentals from one stick game to another, especially skills such as keeping your eye on the ball and the follow through.

Can you share with us your thought processes as you contemplated a bid for the Malaysian Golf Association (MGA) presidency?
I was invited by some friends in the industry to vie for the position of president. An avid golfer myself, I have developed a stronger outlook for the Royal & Ancient sport, especially since I took over the presidency here at the Royal Selangor Golf Club (RSGC). I felt that since I was able to steer this prestigious golf club to the next level, I would able to contribute to the national association and built upon its strengths and take Malaysian golf to the next level.

Does being the president of the RSGC give you a distinct advantage in this race?
I don’t think that it will give me a cutting edge or advantage. What I feel is more important, is the wishes of the members of the golf clubs in this country, which will be delivered by the delegates who will come to A’Famosa Golf Resort for the annual general meeting on Sunday. They are quite aware and discerning enough of the current state of golf in Malaysia and if they feel that change is need, then I stand a chance. So, it boils down eventually to the delegates’ decision on who should lead the association after May 22.

How do you rate your chances this time?
I would put it that both the incumbent and myself share equal chances.

Are you going at in alone as independent or with a team of like-minded and passionate individuals?
I like to say I am an independent but the reality is that both sides has developed a team of their own. I think the machinery has done its work and I hope for the best.

What are your visions for the MGA?
I will decline to answer that question at this juncture. I have a vision and my roadmap of what needs to be done but it’s only fair that I state that should I be elected. But if I may give you a hint, I’m very conservative in nature. I like to refer back to the fundamental reasons behind the existence of the association. Sticking to the core business of the association will be a primary consideration and I want to put emphasis on junior development.

At the recently-concluded Maybank Malaysian Open, the Prime Minister Dato Sri Najib Tun Razak challenged the MGA to groom a local champion. Can we meet that challenge?
But of course. If we put our heads together, if there is single unity of purpose in what we are doing, I am confident we will produce a local champion. At least at, a champion at the regional ASEAN, then to Asian level. But to do that, we need all enablers (the industry players) to come together in one voice, identify the roadmap and transformation plan required and be consistent without being distracted from the vision of producing golfing champions.

It is a good challenge thrown down by the Prime Minister to all the organisations involved in golf in this country. But where can a champion start? One must ask. It has to come from the junior development programme and initiatives. How do we pick and select talents? Talent is not just any talent, but someone who is young and has the will, mindset and the passion to win and be a champion. Someone of that calibre.

I know we already this inkling of these elements young, budding golfers, our youth and juniors but somewhat or rather, why are we faltering on the wayside? I think we must produce the total golfer, someone who has the physical attribute to drive 280 yards and above, the right physique and the right attitude. Then we can develop the mental capacity, we can develop the right muscles for golf and develop the total golfer.

More junior tournaments in the country is needed to give them the exposure or perhaps we can send or bring in some renowned coaches for coaching clinics that can be really effective. To be fair, I am looking at cost-effective solutions, which whatever investment we put in, we should be continously measuring our effort – what gets measured, gets done. With measurement put in place, we can then take stock and see whether we need to adjust or modify the programme or initiative and improve on it, but at the end of the day, the payoff, the outcome of this effort must be a return of investment.

The ROI is vital to get more corporate sponsorship, am I right?
Absolutely. The organisation needs to prove something. We need to be producing the goods before anyone is going to look at us. In Malaysia,we have to accept that this is the environment in which we operate, so if the organisation is able to groom champions, I am sure we will have a wall of support from corporate bodies and companies.

On a personal note, from the leading the armed forces to hopefully, leading the legions of golfers in Malaysia, how do you translate that?
This won’t be the first time that I will be leading a sports association, after tenures as deputy president and president of the Malaysian Hockey Federation. So with my background and experiences, I think I can contribute to the game and its development. My military experience will only reinforce some of the very strong attributes that need to be inculcated in our sportsmen and golfers in general.

Your hopes for Malaysian golf?
I really like to see golf in Malaysia thrive, aligned to the aspirations of the Prime Minister to be a nation of champion golfers. I think that something we must put in our roadmap and quickly build upon it. I know we have talent, but talent if we don’t address or put them on the right track, they will faltering on the wayside halfway through.

So, its going to be a total synergy between the government, the sports ministry, the association and hopefully, we will put in place a strong foundation or bedrock to continously produce future champions. Then, we can hand them over to the professional golf associations to hone them into model professionals, who can fly our flag proudly on the regional and international level.

Should success at the South East Asian (SEA) Games and Asian Games be within our sight?
I think the SEA Games and the Putra Cup should be set as immediate targets for success. That would be in my opinion, a pre-requisite, to raising the level of confidence. Just like any other sports, we have to progress steadily before we have a bunch of world-beaters in our ranks. Exposure is important and I feel more competitive tournaments for our amateurs is an absolute necessity to raise their standards.

The XXXI Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will see golf being re-introduced as an Olympic sport. Is it an impossible dream to see one of our golfers in the Olympics in 2016?
Five years should be a reasonable and timely target for any sport. If we embark on the Road to the Olympics programme immediately, I am sure that we can produce an Olympian and this will surely go a long way in raising the profile and interest of golf in Malaysia.

Tan Sri Mohd Anwar spoke to The ClubHouse at the Royal Selangor Golf Club.

* Incumbent MGA president Dato’ Robin Loh declined an interview, citing personal reasons.