By SHIV DAS
He’s seen it all. Boom. Bust. Indeed, it was bust that brought this Australian civil engineer to Malaysia.
The Japanese-funded resorts he was working on at the time dried up when the Japanese stock market crashed and the investors disappeared overnight. From a lot of work in Queensland and the northern part of New South Wales, he found himself with no work at all.
Fortunately, he had one project in Malaysia he had been awarded and it was at the concept stage. That was 27 years ago and he’s still here, fanning out to the region, doing what he knows and enjoys best — concept, design and construction supervision work for golf courses.
It’s the story of Ted Parslow, 74, with a reputation that’s taken him north, south, east and west of the country.
He’s gone through times when the building of golf courses in the country had taken off, followed by a period of consolidation and even decline, given the pressure for land for housing and commercial purposes, seeing even established golf courses being downsized. “But, that’s life,” he says stoically as he himself eases up, travelling, playing more golf and being happy with whatever comes his way by way of work. He’s not chasing anymore.
He seems happy to talk about the time he first came to the country in 1990 after winning a contract to build a golf course in Bandar Tun Razak. But the site had lots of squatters and the decision was taken to rehouse them in flats in Salak South.
That took a while, but all that delay let the steam out of the project at a time when land values started going up and golf memberships went down, causing the golf component of the project to be abandoned finally.
But, the good that came out of it was the toehold he had gained in the country and friendships he forged with the golfing fraternity.
A Golf Asia show in Singapore saw him taking a booth to promote himself. Setting up a company following that got him started on his first full golf course project in Kedah — the Darulaman Golf and Country Club.
It was done by 1994, and during that time he also got involved with the Sebana Cove Golf Course funded by Arab-Malaysian Bank Bhd.
It was slotted for 45 holes, but it has remained as an 18-hole one to this day, focus being more on a resort with houses, hotels and shops. “It’s a lovely site,” he recalls, “and that’s where it’s at right now, with the course suffering some disrepair. I hope it comes back”.
Since then, he’s seen other courses in the country and in Singapore, Cambodia, China and Vietnam, more than 40 of them. “Lots of concepts, many have been built and some have gone away for many reasons including restricted funding for maintenance.
An exception, he says, is TPC Kuala Lumpur (TPCKL), that began as the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club, and has his involvement, not as the original architects, but subsequently when the need for repair became evident.
Together with Jason Winter, who has now been with the company for 25 years, he was brought in to redesign it in 2006-2007 and get it into the shape it has largely retained since.
This year, they have been brought in to add further practice facilities, modify some features and to oversee re-grassing of the fairways, tees and greens on the west course at the behest of Sime Darby Property Bhd, the owners and the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) of America.
Work began soon after the Sime Darby Ladies Professional Golf Association Malaysia. It will also entail work on some greens and surrounds to provide more adequate-sized pin placements and increase the penalty to PGA Tour players for astray approaches.
Recently, Winter became a partner, and the company is now known as “Parslow and Winter Golf Design”. His brother, a retired professional golfer, is also involved.
“So, the company keeps going. The golf consultancy business, like everything else, goes up and down, and right now it seems work prospects have improved. We are around to do whatever comes our way and to do it well. We are pretty well known in Asia and I’ve been protective of our reputation. It’s important to be honourable, reliable.”
Some places like China went “dead” for a few years after a crackdown on corrupt practices. Now, things are getting to be more stable with stringent rules and the company is starting to do a couple of projects there. There is one in Taiwan and another in Vietnam.
But, here at home, the one that has recently loomed large for the company is the old Royal Johor Golf and Country Club. The old course had expanse with mature trees, but with little money to maintain it. The new one is going to be compact and requires extensive earthworks and reshaping, unlike the old one that used natural contours of the land.
The design is almost ready and construction is expected to begin next year, nine by nine to allow play to continue.
There was also work to be done in Pulai Springs, with a proposed reduction from 27 holes to 18, and another one in Perak, reducing course area to allow adjacent housing development.
The trend seemed to be such these days, consolidation to accommodate land values going up for alternative uses, such as commercial and housing.
Parslow is not ready to retire. “I am lucky it’s my business, I can pick and choose.” But work he did, to get to be in this happy position.