August 3, 2006, Thursday - From caddie to world class player, Mardan Mamat was the first Singaporean to win a European tour event, clinching the Osim Singapore Masters in March 2006. His US$166,660 (S$271,300) win earned him a European Tour card for the rest of this season and the next two seasons, giving him a chance to play with the world’s elite.
For his outstanding achievement in golf, Mardan Mamat, 39, is the winner of this year´s Achiever of the Year Award, organised by Berita Harian and presented by HSBC Amanah Islamic Financial Solutions.
This is the first time that the award is presented to a sportsman. Mardan will receive the award from Mr Khaw Boon Wan, Minister for Health, at 9.15pm tonight at the Ritz Carlton, Millenia Singapore.
The annual award, now into its eighth year, is given to Malay/ Muslim individuals for their achievements in the fields of education, business, arts, and culture, sports, the professions or social work. The recipient must show perseverance, determination and a willingness to overcome the odds in his or her respective field, and possess an outstanding integrity and be looked upon as a role model for the Malay/ Muslim community in Singapore.
The winner is picked by a panel of six judges drawn from the Malay/ Muslim community and headed by Mr Ridzwan Dzafir, Singapore Ambassador at-large.
When Mardan was 13, he quit Boon Lay Primary School after Primary 6 to join his elder brother Mazlan as a caddie at Jurong Country Club (JCC). He had already been caddying part-time since he was nine and the move seemed to be a natural thing to do. The fifth in a family of eight children of an engineering supervisor and a housewife, he decided to quit school partly due to financial constraints.
Armed with only one club - a six-iron - and a fistful of balls he collected by diving into the course’s ponds, he would play from tee to green at JCC. Fortunately, the kind-hearted staff there cast a blind eye to such teenage transgressions.
It was just as well. For, it was on the dimly lit fourth hole that Mardan honed his golf skills.
His salary of $8 a round, though small, contributed to the family’s income. But it was also a job which allowed him to chase his dream of becoming a professional golfer.
By 18, he was playing off a 12 handicap. Four years later, as a scratch golfer, he made his national debut at the 1989 Eisenhower Trophy - the world amateur team championship.
But it was not until 1993 that the honours started coming in. First came a South-east Asia Games team silver medal in June. Then, in November, he won both the team and individual titles in the Putra Cup - Asean’s amateur team championship.
Although he failed to win a medal at the 1994 Hiroshima Asian Games, he was ready to switch to the pro ranks. While he did not make the cut at the Epson Singapore Open, he scored a hole-in-one to win a Jaguar XJS convertible, which he later sold for $270,000.
On the Asian Tour, he was recognised as one of its top players, having qualified for two British Opens and being a part of the Dynasty Cup winning team - representing Asia against Japan in the region’s Ryder Cup style tournament.
Mardan attributes a big part of his success to strong mental skills, developed through practising yoga with his guru Sukhdev Singh. When he won the 2004 Indian Open, his first title on the Asian Tour, he credited his new-found ability to ’relax and focus’. He cited the same formula when asked about the secret behind his Singapore Masters win.
"Singapore has a lot going for it. Over the years, we have built up the Singapore spirit. When golfer Mardan Mamat sank his last putt to win the Singapore Masters - a European Tour event, he wept. Many Singaporean eyes went moist too. We are one people. We stick together in difficulty and cheer together when a Singaporean makes history," Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at his first party political broadcast during the recent General Election.
"From caddy to world class player, Mardan is fortunate that his rise was not hindered by economics. It was propitious that he had a good mentor in Jurong Cub Captain A.C. Wong, who groomed him and supported him,’’ from ST Forum Page, reader Murali Sharma.
"They say you don’t really know a person until you’ve lived together. We went to the Hiroshima Asian Games together and it was there that I realised how dedicated a person he is. ’He would wake up at 4am for runs. In the room, he could not keep still and would take out his putter and practise," observed Jurong CC captain, former Singapore Golf Association vice-president, and long-time mentor A.C. Wong.
"My most vivid memory of his work ethic was during the OCBC Platinum Golf Challenge at Bintan last year. He won the event, yet postponed hanging out with the golfers because he did not want to break his yoga and gym routine. It was only an hour or two later that he joined us," says fellow pro Lam Chih Bing, who has known Mardan since 1991.
Past years´ winners include Dr Mansoor Abdul Jalil, lecturer with the Department of Electrical Engineering at the National University of Singapore (NUS); Professor Aziz Nather, director at the Tissue Bank and consultant with the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at NUS; Madam Halimah Yacob, Assistant Secretary General of NTUC; Master potter Mr Iskandar Jalil; Veteran Composer Mr Iskandar Mirza Ismail; Veteran of social activist Haji Abu Bakar Maidin; and Mr Zulkifli Baharudin, Chairman of Mercy Relief.
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