Nandasena swings back
By Ruhanie Perera
Just two weeks ago, K.A. Nandasena Perera was at the 'Pakistan Open' golf tournament which opened on January 11. There he took a 'swing' and landed a hole-in-one covering a distance of 180 yards. A noteworthy achievement for the man who has been out of the limelight as a player for some years now.
K.A. Nandasena, the famed caddie turned golf professional thought he saw the end of his professional career in 1993 when a severe attack of rheumatic arthritis resulted in him backing out of a tour in Japan consisting of 39 golf tournaments and taking a complete break from golf for the next two years. "Whenever I think back to that time tears come to my eyes, because it was a wonderful opportunity I missed out. I was at the prime of my career at the time, but I suppose God had other plans for me," says Nandasena.
But even at that stage he was not about to give up on the game he loved. A game that dated nearly a 35- year involvement in his life. "I wasn't a child who liked to study, sport was my forte. Of all the sports I played golf was ingrained in my life," says Nandasena who at just five years used to play his own little game of golf with a stick in the marshes near his house. "I lived near the Royal Colombo Golf Course and was influenced by everything that went on there. I started off as a 'ball-boy' earning 25 cents for every golf ball I retrieved from the water." Then with a wistful look in his eyes he talks of how he went on to become a caddie, starting it as an after school job and then as a permanent one. It was then that he started to follow the game and learn the technique - "I always knew that my achievements in life would be through the field of sport".
Other job offers that came his way were declined in the pursuit of this dream. While not on the job Nandasena was practising and when working he was picking up tips. "I was never taught; everything I learned about the game is what I observed as a caddie. Since then I put in my very best into the game and would have continued till the very end, if I hadn't fallen ill."
Although he couldn't play continously, the minute he felt better Nandasena was back on the green - only this time as a coach. "Now that I don't go about that much on tournaments I have enough time for coaching. And I believe that you must share what you know with others," says Nandasena who although wasn't taught by anyone, treasured the tips he received from the patrons at the RCGC. His favourite pupil though is his 14-year-old son, who taking after his father, shows the same keen interest and enthusiasm for the game. "He plays very well and I have great hopes for him," says the proud father adding that his eldest daughter is a very good player as well.
Maybe some day they will follow in their father's footsteps. Footsteps that have travelled a long road of many achievements, beginning with a winning streak in at the 'Caddies Championships' in 1973. From that point onwards he was flying high coming first in the Sri Lanka Open from 1981 - 1985. Other achievements include winning the Amateur Championships held in Malaysia, Singapore, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka and coming second place at the Singapore Open, New Zealand Open and the Malaysian Rocksman Masters as a professional player. He also won the Malaysian Sub-open as a professional. However, the most significant event for him is the Asian Games where he walked off with a Silver medal having just missed the gold on a playoff.
Many an achievement for a man who started off with a golf set gifted to him by an American, for whom he was a caddie for 10 years. Grateful for such support he received over the years he says, "Without him and a number of other members at the RCGC, I would never have got to where I am". Nandasena' father was another person who had great faith in his ability - "he was always interested in what I did".
"The game golf is like a scale," says Nandasena and goes onto explain that the slightest miscalculation will make the scale tip. "People who don't understand the game they may wonder why we enjoy walking around hitting this ball, but to me...it's life!"