The Sri Lankan golf history has recorded many achievements. Among all the golfers who have performed, Pin Fernando stands out for winning the Ceylon Amateur Golf Championship (the second oldest Amateur Golf Championship in the world), All India Amateur Championship and the Pakistan Amateur Championship. There was no other amateur member like the late maestro Fernando in Ceylon or Sri Lankan golf history.
However, in 1970 the Ceylon Golf Union first introduced the Sri Lanka Open to provide an opportunity to non- members of the two Golf Clubs (RCGC & NEGC), especially for ‘Caddies’ to play alongside the amateur members.
The Late Fernando and other top amateurs at the time Sohli Captain, Willie Barsenbach, Dr. C. Thurairajah among others played in the Sri Lanka Open. This is when the first caddy star H.L. Premadasa burst on the scene wining the inaugural ‘Open’. Premadasa received a brand new Dunlop Golf bag among other prizes and was also appointed Assistant Golf Professional at the Royal Colombo Golf Club to the then professional Greenway.
Along with H.L. Premadasa, J.A.J. Perera (Ananda), A.A. Sumathipala from Nuwara Eliya, K.M. Wemboo the NEGC Professional at the time surfaced. From this point there was no turning back. J.A.J. Alias Ananda was the first Caddy to represent Sri Lanka in Pakistan with the Sri Lanka Team which was captained by Pin Fernando in the early 1970’s. H.L. Premadasa, who won the Open again, died in a tragic motor cycle accident in 1973.
The early 1980s saw the emergence of another Caddy K. Nandasena Perera who rewrote the record books with an eight under par 63 at the RCGC in 1983, surpassing Sohli Captains course record of 67 which was standing since 1967! Nandasena went from strength to strength and became the first Sri Lankan to win the National Titles of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Singapore and Thailand placing Sri Lanka solidly on the South East Asian Golfing map.
Then Nandasena won the Asian Games Silver Medal in Beijing China in 1990. Subsequently Nandasena turned Professional once again and played with distinction in the Asian Tour and performed creditably on the Japanese Pro Tour.
Nandasena was quickly followed by R. A. Anura Rohana another Caddy, who won the second Silver Medal at Golf for Sri Lanka at the Seoul Asian Games in 2002. Ever since Anura Rohana has performed incredibly and today he is still playing in the Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) Ranked 10th currently. His journey is a great testimony to the caddy’s humble beginnings and underscores the courage shown by the brand of golfers in Sri Lanka.
Mithun Perera, son of Nandasena, took the baton from his father and won several Amateur events. One striking feature in his career is that he won the AAGC (Asian Amateur Golf Championship), the number 1 amateur championship in Asia, as an amateur in China (2009). Since that win Mithun has grown in stature and became the best Rookie in the PGTI in 2011, winning multiple events in India.
Today, Mithun is flying the Sri Lankan flag performing creditably earning the full Asian Tour Card on the very competitive Asian Professional Golf Tour (APGT).
After the exploits of Mithun came K. Prabagaran another caddy from Nuwara Eliya Golf Club (NEGC), who won the Sri Lanka Amateur Championship and the All India Amateur before turning Pro. Now he is performing well in PGTI. B.G. Lalith Kumara was a ‘ball boy’ and won the Arpico Junior Championship at age 15 and then went on to win the All India Amateur at age 20. He did this again at age 23. Lalith Kumara too is currently playing in the PGTI.
N. Thangaraja is the next Caddy sensation who started his career at Water’s Edge and then went on to win the Sri Lanka Amateur Championship. He is now ranked among the top 20 in the PGTI.
The current crop of top amateurs representing Sri Lanka include Sisira Kumara, who reached the 129th Sri Lanka Amateur Championship final in October 2016, B.A. Sanjeewa, J.M.D. Indika, Arumugam, Amarapathma, Ranga, youngsters Pradeep Kumara, Chalitha Pushpika, Chanaka Perera with sole amateur member Husni Uwise completing the list.
The ‘Caddy’ story is an amazing ‘life-skill’ journey of under privileged individuals whose talent and performance have enriched the sport of golf and brought glory to Sri Lanka in no uncertain terms. The Caddy’s rise to golf stardom is not over yet, with many ‘stars’ in the pipeline, waiting to shine for Sri Lanka.