History Of The Malaysian Amateur Open

The Malaysian Amateur Open Championship was inaugurated in 1894. But, due to the two wars which forced its suspension in 1917 and 1918, and again from 1941 because of the pacific War and the Japanese Occupation until its revival in 1948, 2009 has now become the Championship’s 107th year of competition.

In May 1894, on the eve of his departure for the United Kingdom, Major-General Sir Charles Warren, a very keen sportsman, presented four shields for football, rugby, hockey and golf. Major-General Sir Charles Warren had completed his tour of duty as Commander of the Troops in The Straits settlement and was returning home. Later, after his retirement from the army, he became the Commissioner of Police in London.

For golf, Major-General Sir Charles Warren had stipulated that the Warren shield should be for an annual competition and the venues should be the links of the Penang Golf Club and the Singapore Golf Club. The competition should rotate between the two clubs each year and the format should be medal play. Each club should contribute $10 for the winner’s medal and the Warren Shield would have the winner’s name inscribed and would be hung in his club for one year.

Little did Major-General Sir Charles Warren realize then that his parting gift would create a lasting legacy which has now become one of not only Malaysia’s but the Asia-Pacific region’s most coveted amateur titles.

A few months after his departure, the first Straits Championship teed off the Penang Golf Club in 1894. According to the Straits Times of 26th December 1894, the winner was A.W Stiven, the Captain of Singapore Golf Club instead of D.A.M Brown of Penang who was listed as the winner in the Championship’s records. The paper did mention that Brown was the 1895 winner but who can really dispute the records, which show that Brown claimed four straight from 1894-1897. After a lapse of 11 years, Brown triumphed again in 1908.

In the early days, the modes of transport were oat, gharries ( a form of horse carriage ) and rickshaws. It sometimes took days to reach a destination. Swamps and jungle predominated in the country and life was still primitive. Where there were towns, oil lamps lighted them and wells provided the water supply.

Yet, for the stout hearted golfers, the zeal and zest for competition was so great, they would endure whatever hardships to play and compete on the few golf courses that existed in Penang, Malacca, Selangor and Singapore.

As the Straits Championship grew in strength C.G or Clem Glassford, one of the pioneers who started the Selangor Golf Club in 1893 now known as R.S.G.C, finally got his name on the Warren Shield in 1899 and 1901.

In 1912, this Championship was renamed The Federated Malay States and Straits Settlement Championship. As the First World War intervened, the Championship was suspended for two years in 1917 and 1918 until its resumption in 1919. That was the last year it was played under the medal play (Stroke-play) format, and was switched to match playing 1920, with two qualifying rounds with the eight top qualifiers to play for the title. One name that survived the match play years as a winner in 1913 and 1916 who went on to carve his

Name again in match play on the Warren Shield in 1924 was J.Crabb-Watt. He would have made history, but unfortunately, he was beaten 2 and 1 by G.Gibson in match play’s first year.

E.P Kyle was the player who dominated the infant years of match play with three successive victories from 1921-23. Kyle was able to join Brown with a record five wins, as he was victorious again 1928 and 1930. Before he came from England, Kyle was a semifinalist in the 1913 British Amateur Open.

In 1928, the Federated Malay States and Straits Settlement Championship offered prizes worth $250, $165 and $70 for the first three places. After the formation of the Malayan Golf Association in 1929, the Championship assumed a new name. The first winner of the renamed Malayan Golf Championship, which was held in Singapore, was R.Craik of Singapore. Craik was to win again in 1934. The Association’s duty was to control the Championship and ensure uniformity of handicaps.

In 1931, the Association decided to purchase challenge trophy in the shape of a rose bowl for the champion and the Warren Shield would instead be presented to the winning team. In 1940, the Association agreed that all future Championship would be held at the Selangor Golf Club as it was easier for the players in the North. G.Halliday of Penang was the last player to win that year before the Championship’s lengthy hiatus due to the war.

In 1948, the first post-war Championship was held at the Selangor Golf Club. It had taken more than a year for the Club’s professional, Tom Verity with the help of the military to restore the two courses to their former glory.

A new challenge trophy was purchased, as the rose bowl and the Warren Shield had either been looted or had disappeared or when the train carrying all the trophies from Selangor Golf Club that had been sent to Singapore for safe keeping, had been bombed.

R.B Lauriston became the first post-war winner. He beat H.C (knobby) Clarke, Selangor Golf Club’s Captain by 2 and 1.

The Championship was then rotated between the two clubs in Selangor and Singapore, but returned to the former for its Golden Jubilee in 1952. There were record entries of 65 with maximum handicap of 6. One man who had been a regular feature of these Championships since 1923 was W.J Gibb. At 52 and a member of the Senior Golfers Society, Gibb had, claimed the title four times in 1926, 1927, 1934 and 1949. Gibb was also runner-up in 1923, 1933 and 1940.

“The Old Man” Gibb almost sprang a surprise but found Bernard Newey of Malacca a determined conqueror. Newey had made a splendid recovery in the qualifying rounds. After the morning’s 86, he recovered with 74 in the afternoon to get into the top eight. That Jubilee year, 5 Asians took part and it was hoped that an Asian would have his name engraved on the Championship trophy one day.

When Malaysia achieved independence in 1957, the Championship was again renamed and since then, has become the Malaysian Amateur Open Golf Championship.

Finally, in 1963, after years of expatriate strangle hold on the Championship, a local made history. Darwis Deram from Perak gave Malaysians a long awaited boost with his victory over H.D Norfolk Williams and did a repeat by beating H.M.V Staunton in 1965. Sulaiman Bluah also from Perak, unfortunately lost to J.H Mitchell in the 1964 final.

After 45 years, the Championship reverted to stroke play in 1966. Instead of two rounds, it becomes a 72 holes, four round Championship. Phua Thin Kiay became the first Singaporean to have his name on the Honours Roll under this format with a score of 321. Jalal Deran was able to join his brother Darwis in the illustrious circle of winners with back-to-back victories in 1968 and 1969. Other siblings who had won this Championship are Zainal Abidin Yusof in 1967 and his brother Nazamuddin in 1975, Eshak Bluah in successive years in 1976 and 1977 and his brother Barie in 1982.

As the Championship gained strength and recognition as an important amateur event, foreigners came and many took the title home.

In 1978, when Kelab Golf Negara Subang staged at the open, Chen Tze-Ming from Taiwan an amazing course record of 10 under 62 in the first round and won convincingly. It took another 15 years before Chen’s fellow man Chang Tse-Peng could prove his prowess in 1993 at Templer Park Country Club.

For many years, the Championship was a tournament, which foreigners looked forward to playing, as it was no longer restricted to Malaysians and those residing in Singapore. To give the event more international flavour, foreign countries were invited to participate through the auspices of the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation. Players from its member countries were invited.

As the cost of organizing an Open had also risen, the MGA began to look for a title sponsor. Chivas Regal became the first title sponsor followed by National Panasonic. Then in 1996, Dato Loh Ah Joo of Pan-West did not hesitate to respond when the Championship was in need of a sponsor, and stayed with us for the past 11 years.

Foreigners have been enjoying the Championship and have been taking the title home. Sri Lankans Nandasena Pereira carved his name on the trophy in 1998 and Anura in 1999, while India won once in 2000 and Shiv Kapur was the winner. The Australian domination has really been so overwhelming in the 1990’s that for six years: the title went “Down Under”. In 1990, it was Robert Allenby followed by Shane Tait 1991, Stephen Leaney in 1992, Marcus Wheelhouse in 1995, Jarrod Mosley in 1996 and Cameron Percy in 1998. Mardan Mamat made it Singapore’s year in 1994 and after 12 years, R Nachimuthu managed to steal the limelight in 1997 for Malaysia when he beat New Zealand’s Reon Sayer on the first hole of sudden death at Kelab Golf Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah. Sufian Tan was the last player before Nachimuthu to score a Malaysian victory in 1985.

Recent winners like Luke Hickmott in 2003, Doug Holloway in 2004, and Juvic Pangusan in 2005 and Andrew Dodt who won the 2006 Championship and the others have all turned professional. Many winners of this Championship are now making their mark on the world’s professional circuits and some of them like Robert Allenby, Stephen Leaney Mardan Mamat, Shiev Kapur, Luke Hickmot and Doug Holloway have already carved their names in the International Professional Circuits and some past participants like Mike Campbell, Geoff Ogilvy, Thongchai Jaideee and Prom Messawat, Juvic Pangusan have also carved their names in the international professional circuits.

Since 2006 the Championship, which is Malaysia’s premier event for Amateur golfers, has been included as an event in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, which ranks the top amateur golfers, based on performance in mainly major amateur events worldwide, updated weekly over a period of 12 months.

In the past Championship, only players who made the cut after 2 rounds were allowed to complete the 72 holes. In 2008, the Championship was played over 72 holes to enable the Organising Committee to select the best 32 players to play in the 106th Malaysian Amateur Open Championship based in match play held at Kelab Golf Negara Subang from 26th to 28th May 2008.

The Malaysian Stroke Play Championship was held from 22nd till 25th May 2008 at Kelab Golf Negara Subang, Selangor, Malaysia and won by MGA’S national team player, Muhammad Arie Irawan. Koh Dengshan from Singapore won the 106th Malaysian Amateur Open. A total of 126 participants from 18 countries competed in this event comprised of Australia-1, Bahrin-2, Bangladesh-3, Brunei-2, Hong Kong-1, Indonesia-2, India-7, Myanmar-6, New Zealand-2, Pakistan-2, Philippines-9, Singapore-18, Sri Lanka-3, Thailand-8, Taiwan-7 and Malaysia-53.

The 107th Championship was reverted to the strokeplay format of 4 rounds with cut off after day 2 at Kelab Golf Sarawak, Kuching while Damai Laut Golf & Country Resort successfully hosted the 108th edition held from May 20 – 23. A’Famosa Golf Resort, Melaka took the turn to host  the 109th Malaysia Amateur Open from May 19 – 22, 2011 which was won by Daniel Bringolf from Australia for the men’s event while the ladies’ event was won by local girl, Aretha Pan from Sabah.

The 110th edition, Championship was held at Glenmarie Golf & Country Club, Shah Alam, Selangor from May 24th – 26th 2013. Gavin Kyle Green from Malaysia won the title after a 15-year drought.

Royal Pahang Club, Kuantan, Pahang hosted the 111th edition held successfully from May 23rd – 26th 2013. Kevin Marques of Australia won the event with 68, 66, 72 and 68 for  -14, 274 tournament total.

Royal Perak Golf Club, Ipoh, Perak hosted the 112th edition Malaysia Amateur Open from May 22nd – 25th, 2014. The tournament was won by Cory Crawford from Australia with total score of 282 for -6.

The Committee of MGA decided to rotate this Championship between West and East Malaysia to provide ample opportunities for clubs in Malaysia divided by the South China Sea to host the prestigious event. The 113th edition was awarded to Sarawak Golf Association who in turn awarded the Championship to Kelab Golf Sarawak and it was held from 21-24 May 2015. After carding the lowest round on Saturday third round of 3-under-par 69, Marc Ong of Singapore breezed through in the final round of the 113th Malaysian Amateur Open to clinch the title. His final-round 68 gave him a tournament total 13-under-par 275 and a 5-stroke victory.

The 114th edition was awarded to Templer Park Country Club to host this prestigious Championship and another Australian, Lachlan Barker took home the Challenge Trophy while the 115th edition was held at Nexus Golf Resort Karambunai, Sabah from 18 to 21 May 2017. Sadom Kaewkanjana of Thailand carded a total score of 4-under-par 280 to win the Championship.

Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Golf & Country Club won the bid to host the 116th edition which was held from 10 to 13 May 2018. Witchayanon Chothirunrungrueng of Thailand carded 70, 65, 64, 73 for 16-under-par 272 tournament total to claim the Challenge Trophy.

The 117th edition of the Championship was awarded to Sarawak Golf Association to be held from 20-23 June 2019.