Awaken the Golfer Within

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By Chan Kong Hoe

82-year-old Mr. Salleh had a wish, he hoped to revisit Singapore Island Country Club (SICC), a place where he can reflect on his lifetime of moments where he was happiest.

An avid golfer, Mr. Salleh held a special connection with SICC. It was the place he fell in love with golf; the place he caddied for the late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew; the place where he was head-hunted by Rothman to take on golf training and represented them in the inter-club tournaments; a place where he found his belonging and called his second home.

Unfortunately, illness has taken a toll on his health and he is bedridden. A small AWS team (Leo, Emily, Estela, Marecel and me) was pulled together very quickly to work on the plan. We visited Mr. Salleh at his home to hear his story and roped in Grace, who graciously helped liase with SICC. After 4 days of tireless planning, we knew we had a plan that will leave a memorable experience for Mr. Salleh and his family.

The big day came on 7th May and we were blessed with an amazing weather. Emily met Mr. Salleh at his home to accompany him on the ambulance trip to SICC. We were initially worried when we learnt that he seemed tired but our worries were unfounded. Mr. Salleh brightened up immediately when he arrived at SICC dressing smartly in a SICC polo shirt and golf cap. He was warmly received at the drop off area by his extended family, the management and staff of SICC and the volunteers from AWS. Mr. Salleh was taken out in a stretcher and wheeled through the places he knew well… the SICC reception area, the caddie shack, the putting green, the 1st and 9th hole.

As I stood behind his stretcher looking at him gazing out into the picturesque golf course, I could almost feel his desire to walk down the golf course to score another Eagle. Golf was his passion. He played it, watched it, read it, thinked it and breathed it. It was what he did best and defined who he was.

Nick-named the “Buaya” (“Buaya” (Malay) literally means “crocodile”. But on a golf course, “Buaya” is a golfer who declares a high handicap but plays way better than the category); Mr. Salleh could not hold back his tears when Marecel presented him our gift of a crocodile plush toy; which he hugged tightly throughout the rest of the trip.

Surrounded by his family, Mr. Salleh was beaming throughout the tour. Mr. Salleh is a humble man and does not brag of his glorious past. It surprised me that many of his grandchildren are not aware of his illustrious golf career and that their loving grandad once caddied for the late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.

We ended the day with the entire entourage celebrated his 82th birthday at the new club house and with his favourite fried beef kway teow waiting for him when he reached home.

The visit was not only a trip down memory lane for Mr. Salleh, it offered us an opportunity to look beyond his physical frame and learn more about a humble passionate golfer. When I was tasked to put together a digital scrapbook for the visit, I wanted to share the impression Mr. Salleh left with me: A loving father and grandad; the Buaya Golfer; a SICC Veteran and a forever friend of Ambulance Wish Singapore.

We dedicate the following digital scrapbook to Mr. Salleh.