PUTRA CUP HISTORY
“It is my wish that one trophy should be donated for amateur golfers for South East Asia and I am happy to donate a cup for this purpose,” Tunku wrote in January 1961.
The Tunku, as he was fondly known, wished the competition to be played among teams along the lines of the World Amateur Golf Team Championship for the Eisenhower Trophy.
The objective of the competition is to foster friendship among the sportsmen of South East Asia. “I hope this idea will receive enthusiastic response from all friendly countries in South East Asia. I would therefore like to ask you and Your Committee to try and organize this competition to be held in Kuala Lumpur annually.”
This address was at Selangor Golf Club(now Royal Selangor Golf Club or RSGC), the venue selected for the first championship.
Thus, the Putra Cup was born out of a wish of a great statesman and leader who donated the trophy which is made of rose gold, It was specially ordered from London and cost the then princely sum of US$10,000.
For the inaugural championship, 11 teams were invited from Burma(now Myanmar),Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand, South Vietnam, Singapore. the Philippines, Sarawak, Brunei ,North Borneo and host Malaya.
Of these, the first six, together with Malaya, accepted and the first championship was officially opened on ,July 19 1961 with a simple flag raising ceremony.
The next morning, the players were introduced to His Majesty the Yang di- Pertua Agong(King) and Hans of Indonesia had the honour of teeing off first Wong Weng Foo ( Singapore) and Paul A.Chen(Burma)
Hong Kong were the favourites two of their players. Jock Mackie and Alan Sutcliffe, held scratch
handicaps and Bill Leighton and Hugh Stanton played off one. Their closest rivals ,handicap wise, were Malaya, represented by Patrick Lim(3),Too Joon Loke(3),Choong Ewe Seong(4) and Henry Liu(5).
On the first day, Sutcliffe shot a 2-under 72.In those days, the Old Course played to about 6,500 yards, par-74.The two nines were played the other way around, that is the present 10th hole being the 1st then. The present 6th,9th,10th and 18th were par-5s and the present 13th a par-4.
Sutcliffe’s brilliant round included four birdies and it helped Hong Kong open up an 11-stroke lead over Malaya, with Thailand third. Malaya owed their performance to Patrick Lim’s 74.This turned out to be the second best of the whole tournament.
Hong Kong increased their lead to 20 stokes after the second round, thanks to 77s by Sutcliffe and Hugh Staunton.
After the third round they led by 22 and it became a one-horse race. On the last day, Hong Kong wrapped up the title by a massive 33 stroke, Hugh Staunton played steady round of 76,77,78,82 to win the individual title.
Meanwhile, Malaya struggled and dropped from second to third to fourth, ending up behind Singapore and Thailand.
Singapore’s hero was Wong Weng Foo and the only player in the field to play under 80 stoke in each round, barring his second round 81 that included two penalty strokes for grounding his club in a water hazard.
The most commonly expressed hope was that the Philippines would join in and raise the standard of the championship which they did in 1963 and won the championship which they managed to successfully defend for the following two years.
In 1965, the Philippines made a successful bid stage at Wack Wack. It was the first time the championship was held out of Malaysia.
Thailand and Singapore hosted it the next two years before it returned to Malaysia in 1968.Later,it was agreed that the championship be rotated among the countries in alphabetical order. So with this new arrangement, Myanmar took over in 1969.
In 1979,Papua New Guinea’s application to join the league was approved and it promptly bid to host the event the following year when Myanmar won for the first time at Port Moresby Golf Club.
Singapore hosted the championship for the first time in 1967 at the Bukit Course of Singapore Island Country Club. That year, with a score of 897, the Singapore Team comprised of Phua Thin Kiay ,Brian Marks ,Ong Chew Bee and Jimmy Paterson, and pipped the Philippines by two strokes to become the championship for the first time.
The next time Singapore won was 26 years later-in 1993 when the 72-hole event was reduced to 54 due to rain. Only twice in close to three decades and half did the championship fail to finish in 72 holes. Both were in Hong Kong in 1970 and 1993.
For the record, the Philippines won more than any other countries, 17 times from 1963-65,1698-73,1975,1981-83,1987,1990 and 1995-96. Their success speaks volumes for players like Silverio, Frankie Monoza, Gil Ababa and Felix Casas in the older days and recent players like Juvic Pagunsan and Artemio Murakami who are now successfully playing their trade on the pro Asean Tour and the Asian Tour.
In the trophy’s Silver Jubilee year in 1985 held at RSGC, the emergence of Thailand as a golfing force began when they won the championship for the first time and won it 12 more times.
Like the Philippines, Thailand also churned out great players like Boonchu Ruangkit who headed the team in 1985 to emerge as championship who is now a successful teaching pro.
Other players that came out of the championship from the Kingdom who are now winning on the European and Asian Tours are Thongchai Jaidee,Prom Meesawat and others.
The 2019’s edition was held at the beautiful and challenging Heron Lake Golf Club, Hanoi, Vietnam from July 24-27.