By Dian Abeywardene
Twenty four year old, M U Chanaka Perera engraved his name in history on the second oldest amateur golf championship trophy in the world, first played in 1891 March, named the “Amateur Golf Championship of Ceylon”, in the island of ‘Ceylon’ under the British empire.
The Amateur Golf Championship of Ceylon an event for the privileged British, opened out to the elite ‘Ceylonese’ when F De Saram was the only Ceylonese competitor in the 1908 championship. In 1912 the three De Saram brothers namely Fred, ER and Beauchamp played well and made an impact as Ceylonese. Subsequently other Ceylonese participated but it was not until 1923 that Timothy De Silva became the first Ceylonese to win the Amateur Golf Championship. The Ceylonese victory inspired increased participation of Ceylonese in the Championship. B.E. Weerasinghe became the second Ceylonese to win in 1929. Then after a long gap including the 2nd world war, W. Pin Fernando burst in to the limelight and won in 1947 & 1948, both occasions in Nuwara Eliya overcoming the competitive British challenge. The legendary Pin Fernando, held his own against the Britishers in the championship and won a total 9 occasions up to 1964, the year that India and Pakistan National teams commenced their participation. Since then the Indians and Pakistani Amateur golfers dominated the Championship. C U Senanayake won in 1963 and Pin Fernando won again beating the Indian and Pakistan challenge in 1969 in Colombo. The Indian domination was thwarted by the exceptional K Nandasena Perera when he won 3 years consecutively in 1988, 1989 and 1990.
It was in 1994 that an All Sri Lankan final was witnessed with D J D ‘Jessie’ Perera defeated K A ‘Tissa’ Chandradasa in the Final. Subsequently, R A Anura Rohana (once), Lalith Kumara (twice), Mithun Perera (thrice), K. Prabagaran (twice), N. Thangaraja (twice-2011 & 2012) was the last Sri Lankan to win the Sri Lanka Amateur Golf Championship.
M U Chanaka Perera thus joins an elite band of Golfers produced by Sri Lanka and at 24 years looks to be another solid prospect for the future. G P Sisira Kumara, the Runner-up in the last two years, established an unique record in the history of the Championship, when he was the Runner-up for the 3rd consecutive year losing 3 & 1, in the 36 hole final to Chanaka Perera. Sisira was beaten in 2016 by Thailand’s number 1 Ranked Amateur but in 2017 Sisira Kumara was 6 up after the morning 18 holes at the NEGC, having completely dominated Druv Sheron of India, but with incessant rain and bad weather conditions, the starting time of the afternoon was re-adjusted and fate had it that Druv Sheron came back with a vengeance and victory slipped away from Sisira Kumara. Druv Sheron went on to become the top qualifier in the PGTI the following year. The record of being the Runner-up in three consecutive Sri Lanka Amateur Golf championships is a record by itself, with Pin Fernando being the closest to that record when he was Runner-up consecutively twice in 1966, 1967 and 1970, 1971 but, Sisira Kumara managed to reach the final thrice and become Runner-up all three times.
The Sri Lanka Ladies Amateur Golf Championship final was an enthralling Match between 16 year old Taniya Minel Balasuriya and 15 year old Kayla Perera. The two girls played immaculate golf in the 36 hole final and was a ding-dong battle all the way. In the morning 18 holes Kayla Perera took a 1 up lead and the afternoon round commenced with both girls driving long and straight. Taniya Minel birdied the opening hole of the afternoon 18 holes to be Square the match. Kayla won the 3rd when Taniya Minel over shot the green for Kayla to regain the lead at 1 up. The 4th and 5th holes halved in Par and then Taniya Minel fired an amazing four Birdies on the trot, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th to be 3 up, after 27 holes of the 36 hole final.
Kayla kept playing consistent golf and was only 1 over par for the afternoon round after 16 holes in the afternoon round but found herself dormie 2 down to Taniya Minel, whose five birdies had literally sealed the match. The 35th hole saw Kayla make every attempt to fight back but Taniya Minel produced another two stunning shots to have a 6 foot putt for another Birdie! Kayla missed a chip just off the 17th green and the Ladies Amateur Golf Championship 2018 was annexed by Taniya Minel successfully defending the title she won last year as well.
The 131st Continental Sri Lanka Amateur Golf Championship, principal sponsor DSL – Continental, the future in motion, facilitated the competitive second oldest Amateur Golf Championship in the world to be conducted in grand style. The Match-play segment was preceded by two qualifying rounds with 65 participants playing to qualify for 32 spots in the Championship Match-play knock-out segment. There were several individual prizes on offer for the two qualifying rounds and Uchitha Akash Ranasinghe swept the board winning all prizes on offer with two sensational under par rounds for an aggregate nine under par earning the Top Seed status as well. However, in the Match-Play segment Uchitha Akash Ranasinghe, son of illustrious, veteran Professional Golfer Anura Rohana was beaten in the Quarter Final by Ahaan Nath of India, who was beaten by Sisira Kumara in the Semi- final.
The 36 hole finals of both the Men’s & Ladies Championship was followed by a solemn but grand Prize Giving graced the Guest of Honour the Deputy Ambassador of the Republic of Germany in Sri Lanka and his wife. The Principal Sponsor DSL- Continental was represented by Chairman & Managing Director Mr. Saroj Perera. The President Sri Lanka Golf Union Retd, Air Chief Marshal Harsha Abeywickrema, welcomed the distinguished gathering and also participated in giving away the main awards along with Mr. Saroj Perera who gave away the Continental Trophy to both Champions who received the Championship Trophy from the President of Sri Lanka Golf. Mr. Suren Rajanathan, Mr. Dhammika Jayaweera, SLGU Vice President Sanjeeva Vairavanathan, Treasurer SLGU Mr; G K Sudath Kumara, President NEGC Maj. Gen Srinath Rajapakshe, Captain NEGC Mr. Firaz Hameed, Mrs. Niloo Jayatilleke Head of Junior Golf Sub Committee SLGU, Mr. Priath Fernando PP SLGU, Mr. Nishan Navaratne Honorary Secretary SLGU, gave away the respective awards.
Whilst the Captain of RCGC Avancka Herat spoke on behalf of the host Club, speaking at the occasion, Mr. Choong Kee Seng Director Sales APAC representing Continental and the Guest of Honour praised the second oldest Championship event and tracing the commercial and business ties between Germany and Sri Lanka confirming that 50 German Companies and Institutions continue to have cordial and beneficial relations in Sri lanka with the Principal Sponsor Continental being an example of the good-will relations between Germany and Sri Lanka.
The Pakistan Team Manager Retd. Wing Commander I. N. Khokar, spoke a few words of appreciation of the Sri Lanka Golf Championship and the healthy relationship between the Pakistan Golf Union and the SLGU since 1964, after exchanging mementos between the President SLGU and the Pakistan Golf Union.
The Vote of thanks was delivered by the Honorary Secretary Mr. Nishan Navaratne who spear-headed the successful conduct of the 131st Continental Sri Lanka Amateur Golf Championship and the Sri Lanka Ladies Amateur Golf Championship 2018, which was sponsored jointly by DSL and LUSH Skin Clinique. Precious House, LUSH Skin Clinique, DSL – CONTINENTAL complete the list of Sponsors of both the Men’s & Ladies Amateur Golf Championships.
RESULTS AT A GLANCE-
131st CONTINENTAL SRI LANKA AMATEUR GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP
2018 SRI LANKA AMATEUR GOLF CHAMPION – M U CHANAKA PERERA 3 & 1 (Winner)
Runner up – G P SISIRA KUMARA
SRI LANKA LADIES AMATUER GOLF CHAMPION 2018- TANIYA MINEL BALASURIYA 3 & 1(Winner)
Runner up – KAYLA PERERA
INTERNATIONAL TEAM EVENT – ZIA UL HAQ TROPHY (PAKISTAN VS SRI LANKA)
WINNER – SRI LANKA ‘A’ 144 (J M D INDIKA 73, SISIRA KUMARA 71)
RUNNER UP – PAKISTAN 150 (ASHIQ HUSSAIN 76, ZUBAIR HUSSAIN 74)
Victoria Cup – Best Individual Gross 1st Round
Winner U A Ranasinghe 67 – Runner-up Ashiq Hussain (PAK) 72 [better back 9]
Illangakoon Trophy – Best Individual Nett 1st Round
Winner U A Ranasinghe – Runner-up Kushal Johnpillai
Pin Fernando Trophy – Best Individual Gross 2nd Round
Winner U A Ranasinghe 66 – Runner-up Sisira Kumara 71
SLGU Trophy – Best Individual Nett Score 2nd Round
Winner – U A Ranasinghe – Runner-up Gehan Siribaddana
Timothy De Silva Challenge Trophy Aggregate Best Gross Score 2 Rounds
Winner – U A Ranasinghe 133 (67, 66)
Lilamani Weeraratne Trophy – Best Aggregate Gross 2 Rounds Ladies
Winner- Taniya Minel Balasuriya 150 (70, 80)
Pin Fernando Trophy – Best Aggregate Nett 2 Rounds Ladies
Winner – Irene Scarth 145
Runner up – Yun Jeong Choi 146
F B De Mel Challenge Cup – Ladies Match-Play Nett
Winner- Shirani Buffin 1 up Runner-up – Fran De Mel