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HindustanTimes Sat,30 Aug 2014

Other Sport

Distance has Perera longing for home
Kaushik Chatterji, Hindustan Times
Greater Noida, February 14, 2013
First Published: 01:18 IST(14/2/2013)
Last Updated: 01:20 IST(14/2/2013)

Established in 1829, the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC) is the oldest outside the British Isles. At 134 years, its Sri Lankan counterpart that shares its initials isn't nearly as old.

Even so, that the island nation was, till six months ago, yet to host a professional golf tournament comes as a surprise.

When it did happen, the support of cricketers Mahela Jayawardene and Kumara Sangakkara came in handy.

"Both helped in its organisation," says Sri Lankan professional Mithun Perera, who adds that out of the two, Mahela is a more avid golfer.

Mithun has quite a legacy to live up to. His father, Nandasena, is credited with putting Lanka on the region's golfing map.

During his three-year amateur stint, Perera Sr, won several Asian national championships, including India's, before becoming the first Lankan to win an Asian Games medal in golf - an individual silver at Beijing 1990.

He picked up the game back home from his father. But it's in India that Mithun learnt the ropes, graduating from a junior to an amateur and, in 2011, professional.

"But I speak to him after rounds. He gives me good advice," said Mithun, after carding a five-under 67 to help the Ahmedabad team move into a share of the lead at the LP Cup at Jaypee Greens on Wednesday.

Now busy on the Asian Tour (a runner-up finish in Singapore last year made him the first Lankan to win a full card), he's away from home for 40 weeks a year, a lot of it in India.

Hardly surprising, then, that his caddy Susanto Das is from Kolkata, or that he enjoys Bollywood films and music. In fact, he believes he can easily pass off for someone from Chennai.

"I speak better Hindi than many from there!"

Still, home is where the heart is. Having won the first-ever pro event held in his country, he's going back for the two this year.

"For the last 30 years, we had the LTTE issue," reminds Mithun.

"But now, things are looking up. We now have four golf courses, with more in the pipeline. Sponsors have agreed to invest. Soon, we'll have our own pro tour."


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