The one-time caddie always placed his bets on hard work and dedication
Another noteworthy caddy who turned golfer and professional is lanky Anura Rohana. He, too hails from close proximity to the Royal Colombo Golf Club (RCGC) and was attracted to the game by watching the elite society play.
Brought up in a poor background, Rohana’s father R.A. Akmond was a caddy who earned just enough to keep the home fires burning. Thereafter, Rohana, too took to being a caddy at a young age of 12 years. He worked as a caddy after returning from school.
With this enthusiasm he soon learnt the game and contested tournaments conducted by the RCGC. He received encouragement from high officials at the club.
It took some time before Rohana began clinching major amateur golf titles conducted in Sri Lanka, hinting that he was on the road to greater achievements. During that time his first dream was to win a medal at the Asian Games which he did in 2002 by winning the Silver medal in Busan, Korea. With this he became the second Sri Lankan golfer to achieve this feat.
In the same year, Rohana turned professional. Since then he has managed to maintain consistency in the Indian and Asian Golf Circuits.
“I have completed fourteen years as a professional golfer and hope to continue for another four years more. My ambition now is to win the Asian qualifying tournament which is to be held in Thailand in January next year,” said Rohana.
However, he said that he hopes that someone will sponsor him to go for this event.
Rohana also has the distinction of winning the Sri Lanka Open Golf Championship seven times. In the process, he bettered the record held by Nandasena Perera. This event is contested by professional golfers too.
Rohana has maintained a good reputation as a pro golfer after Nandasena Perera and Lalith Kumar.
He travels around India and Asia to participate in about 20 tournaments a year. He has, however, won only one major title which is the Nepal Open in 2008.
Rohana has three sons who are attending a leading school in close proximity to the golf course. This he was able to do through his earnings by playing golf at a top level. However, none of his three sons are keen to follow in the footsteps of his father or grandfather. Only the youngest son has shown some keenness to follow the game.
Early encouragement was given to him by some club officials like Hiran de Zoysa, Rusi Captain and Manjula Karunaratne to pursue his gold career. Though football was another sport that Rohana was interested in, the ability he showed for the team sport were a lot less than the skills he has for golf. However, Rohana admitted that he is still learning about golf each day.
Sri Lankan professional golfers are notably from poor families who yearn to do well through golf, a sport enjoyed by the elite class. Nevertheless, some golfers have pulled out from professional tours due to lack of a sponsor. Rohana has managed to persuade his sponsor to stay with him since 2002.
Pro-golf is considered a demanding sport as Sri Lanka does not have a pro-golf tournament. Their only salvage is on India. He has to qualify to be in the top 60 from about 120 golfers to take part in the Asian tour.
Rohana has achieved a place in the top 60 and continues to take part in all the pro tours in Asia for the rest of the year. He has never failed in this endeavour for the past nine years.
Rohana found a companion in young Mithun Perera who turned pro a few years ago. Mithun is the son of legendary Nandasena Perera. Both these professionals were first guided by Ana Punchihewa who was the secretary of the Sri Lanka Golf Union (SLGU).
Even the professional golfers come under the Sri Lanka Golf Union whose objective is to groom amateur golfer into professional level. This development programme was initiated by Punchihewa and even the professional golfers support the success of this programme.
The SLGU, through its program, aims at developing the sport. It has initiated three amateur pools to represent Sri Lanka beginning with the youngsters. Rohana too willingly supports the cause when he finds time in-between pro-tours.