Ron calls it a day — for now

Now, Ron can look back with pride when he clocks out from PGM for the last time after 8 years of service

By SHIV DAS

Once a soldier, always a soldier and that’s Ron S Mahendran, 78, who retired from the army as brigadier general and continued to serve, but in the game of golf, with the same dedication and commitment that marked his 36 years in uniform.

Add 25 in golf and it’s 61 years of prim and proper service. (He had joined the Boys Wing of the Royal Military College aged 17).

And, if not for problems that caused him to have two knee replacements, he would have been good for, who can say, how long more. Especially when it’s been “I have absolutely enjoyed what I’ve been doing”.

But like they say, all good things have to come to an end and it came on June 14, when he clocked out, so to speak, from Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) for the last time after eight years.

PGM chairman Tun Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid in presenting him a plaque of appreciation said: “Golfers have diverse backgrounds and profiles, but PGM needed a person like Ron to instil proper discipline (like in the army), but tempered with the human touch.

“And, typically, I could always rest assured that any instruction I gave him was duly carried out.”

If there’s one thing that stands out for Ron (left), in his years with the tour, it’s this: i was kept very, very busy with events, one after another, says Ahmad Sarji (right)

All that was now over. No more for Ron the task of ensuring players were in place for each and every professional tournament and the set-up, including the venue, was ready and waiting.

It’s been all about giving unstinting backing to Ahmad Sarji, whose vision and drive had given birth to the professional tour that first teed off in 2010, changing the face of golf in the country and even getting global recognition, plus providing player earnings not dreamed of before.

If there’s one thing that stands out for Ron, in his years with the tour, it’s this: “I was kept very, very busy with events, one after another.”

At the start, towards the end of 2010 when the tour got underway, it was just one event, but in the following full year (2011) it was 16, including three Asian Development Tour (ADT) Total prize money RM2.6 million. How good was that?

It was to grow even better. The second year (2012) featured 20 tournaments (seven ADT), two qualifying and five satellite monthly qualifying events and by 2016, there was a peak of 33 events (12 ADT), plus 11 qualify- ing schools for a grand total of 44. Prize money, by local reckoning, a whopping RM5.8 million.

Little wonder then that he was on the road without let-up for the first three years. Total immersion.

Every single detail had to be attended to, including tying loose ends of the previous tournament, even as preparations were made for the one ahead. Player lists had to be finalised, while staying connected with host clubs and, days before the event, driving down to see if arrangements were spot on.

As director, tournaments and ope- rations, he had to be on top of every detail, from the state of the golf courses to practice rounds, caddies, tournament referees, prize money, and food and drinks for the five days — one practice round and four playing rounds for closed tournaments, two practice days and four tournament rounds when it came to the bigger ADT events.

(ADT events, offering Official World Golf Ranking points and a bigger purse, attract players from the region and elsewhere, as they provide stepping-stones to the bigger, more lucrative Tours.)

“I was there on the ground and running the tournaments, reporting to the then GM Mior Abdul Rahman. I had to check on pin placements on the greens by two referees entrusted with the task. It’s different placements every day.”

Appreciating all of this, Ahmad Sarji suggested that he run the tournaments from the office where possible, delegating tasks and only presenting himself at the venues on the final day and prize giving, invariably by the Tun, who had every reason to be happy about what he’s been able to achieve.

For Ron, it was expertise he had gained from his army days that’s stood him in good stead. He was secretary of the Armed Forces Golfing Association to begin with, then VP and president.

There were tournaments against the armed forces in the region — Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand mostly. In Kuala Lumpur, Monthly Medals were held at the Royal Selangor Golf Club and other clubs that were gracious enough to allow them use of their courses.

When he had retired from the army in 1993, he had every intention of putting his feet up for a while, but it was wishful thinking.

Running into the then president of the Professional Golf Association of Malaysia (PGAM), Tun Abdul Ghafar Baba, deputy prime minister at the time, put paid to his “retirement” plans. “I need someone urgently, someone capable like you to run PGAM,” Abdul Ghafar had said.

Done. Some years later with Tommy Lee as president of the Malaysian Golf Association, the idea of hosting two world amateur championships appeared on the horizon, namely the men’s World Amateur World Cup and the Espirito Santo Cup for women in 2002 at Saujana Golf and Country Club.

“Everything has to be coordinated. That’s your job”, was the cue given to him and like a true soldier he accepted the challenge. That was some feather in his cap.

But the icing on the cake came with the setting up of PGM in 2010 and who did Ahmad Sarji turn to for help? Ron.

Now, eight years later, he can look back with pride. “Seeing our players grow in stature, earn world ranking points, play on the bigger Asian Tour and take home six-figure earnings at the top end…I never dreamed I would see the day.”

And that’s not all. PGM was coordinator for three editions of the EurAsia Cup, the biennial team clash between Europe and Asia, which enabled Malaysian players (Danny Chia, Nicholas Fung and Gavin Kyle Green) to be on the Asian side.

Ron was also involved in the first two editions of the Indonesian Golf Tour-PGM Matchplay tournaments that currently stand at one win each.

Will he get to see the first full-field Asian Tour event to be held in the country as a EurAsia Cup legacy event? He’s not holding his breath as he’s done riding the roller-coaster he was on for eight years.

Now that the pressure is off, first order of business in his sights — visiting his children settled in the US. That’s once “his knees start behaving” and he’s able to travel.

But the soldier that he is and given he’s got golf under his skin, an offer he can’t refuse is not likely to be off his radar completely.