‘JACK NICKLAUS OF MALAYSIA’
By Tony Mariadass
Guna’s green, green grass of home
[Interview conducted May, 2016 in Kuala Kubu Baru]
Golfer Periasamy Gunasegaran is still staying relevant in the game thanks to his club – Kuala Kubu Baru Golf and Country Club (KKBGC) – and close friends from this town.
Born and bred in this small town, Gunasegaran, who is still best remembered as the closest to being the first Malaysian to win the Malaysian Open in 1994 when he lost in an epic eight-hole play-off to Sweden’s Joakim Haeggmann, is still making a name for himself at the game.
At 53, Gunasegeran won the Asian Senior Master 2016 at the Tering Bay Golf and Country Club in Batam in early April to book the only ticket from Asia to compete in the PGA Senior Tour champions event – the Insperity Invitational (May 2-8) - at the Woodlands Country Club in Houston.
Playing in a field of 81 golfers which was rated as one the strongest field of the Tour, Gunasegaran had for company the who’s who list of golfers with the likes of 2015 champion Ian Woosnam , seven other past winners of the event—Larry Nelson (2004), Mark McNulty (2005), Jay Haas (2006), John Cook (2009), Brad Faxon (2011), Fred Funk (2012) and Esteban Toledo (2013) and in addition, five World Golf Hall-of-Fame members - Tom Kite, Mark O’Meara, Curtis Strange, Colin Montgomerie and Sandy Lyle.
“I was simply amazed at field. It was a lifetime dream come true as the field had a combination of golf’s legends, new PGA tour champions members, Hall of Fame members and the best players in the world age 50 and over,” said Gunasegran who finished 48th.
“You say anything about these legends, but they were a friendly lot who had time for everyone. I was not only rubbing shoulders with them, but had them giving words of encouragement and having conversations with them. It was an experience of a lifetime for me.”
Guansegeran said that he had to thank his club, where he had started off as a caddy in 1972 to have become an amateur golfer, a professional and still playing.
“I owe it to my club members who have very supportive in me making golf a career. Without their financial support I will not have achieved all I have till date,” said the resident pro of KKBGC.
“Besides my club, another hometown friend, S. Gopi, a successful businessman has been very supportive and if for his substantial contribution I would not have made it to Houston,” said Gunasegaran who had to spend about RM17,000 for the US trip besides another RM5,000 for the qualifier in Batam.
“I am also indebted to my equipment sponsor – Srixon – who have supported me for the last 20 years.”
Gunasegran started caddying with his childhood buddy, B. Rajkumar – the Asian Track and Field championship 800m gold medallist in 1985 in Jakarta and who still holds the national record with his winning time of 1.47.37
“Rajukumar was an excellent golfer too and a single handicapper. But he choose to take up athletics, while I decided it was golf for me,” said Gunasegaran who still plays with Rajkumar at the club course.
Gunasegeran who was a member of the Sea Games gold medal winning team at the 1989 Games in Kuala Lumpur and individual silver at the 1991 Manila Sea, turned professional in 1992 winning his first title as a pro at the Singapore PGA the same year. There has been no looking back since then winning numerous titles.
KKB has been a haven for top golfers for besides, Gunasegaran, it has had two other professionals – R. Narchimuthu and late A. Dorairaj.
Guansegaran is hoping that a fourth golfer from KKBGC will do the small town proud, but said that things have changed from the time they used to play.
“We hardly get any local boys playing here. Almost everyone has left for the brighter city lights. Those days, the golf course was our source of extra income as schoolboys. We caddied and earned starting with 80 sen and in the later years, about RM2.50 for a round of 18 holes.
“Today we have no caddies. The golfers use the buggy.”
But Gunasegeran still remains very relevant at KKBGC as he is looked upon by the members for tips in the game and also to have him play a round of game with them.
“I do conduct coaching course to individuals who approach me. Tried to start a gold academy here, but there was little response.”
Gunasegaran said he is just happy with what he is doing and playing in senior tournaments from time to time, while KKBGC will remain his home forever.