THE Otto Golf Classic Cup at the Bukit Kemuning Country Resort course in Shah Alam, Selangor, will celebrate its 23rd anniversary on Saturday and for one of the founding members, it will similarly be a special occasion.
Lt Col (R) Otto Ong, after whom the tournament is named and who serves as its patron, turns 85 this year and will be on the fairways of Bukit Kemuning, playing the sport that he says is the best in the world.
Reflecting on the longevity of the golf competition that started out between friends who chose to compete among themselves because they did not have handicap cards and could not enter Malaysia Golf Association (MGA) sanctioned events more than two decades ago, Otto said it was an annual event that he looked forward to with much pride.
“I don’t play as well as I used to,” said the retired armed forces officer with a smile on his face.
“Still, I enjoy being out there on the course.
“These days, I only play nine holes once or twice a week. I find it a good form of exercise for me, as I walk the course and don’t use a buggy, and it also gives me the chance to mix with friends.”
Lim Kim Long, who is credited with starting the tournament alongside Otto and a few other flight-mates, explained that the tournament is by invitation only, “for friends and sponsors, and not more than 11 or 12 flights.”
“When we started out, we didn’t think that it would still be around after more than 20 years – but here we are,” said Kim Long.
“The tournament is made possible each year through the commitment of a small group of family and friends, and that’s how it has always been.
“Of course, we have had generous sponsorship over the years, particularly from George Lim of D’Tavern Pub & Restaurant in Port Klang.
“For us, George is part of our golf family. He has helped us a great deal, along with several other sponsors who have chipped in through the years.”
Another key member of the tournament is Tan Chin Teck, a lecturer and professor at the University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky, United States.
He returns home each year to help organise and take part in the Otto Classic Cup.
“This year, we expect the competition to be a lot more intense,” said Chin Teck, who is also a tennis coach at Cumberlands.
“A few of the boys have shown good form recently and that should make it rather interesting.”
Defending champion Khoo Peng Hua, a three-time winner of the silverware, and Eric Lim, who is chasing a third title of his own, are among the pre-tournament favourites.
Peng Hua, who plays off a 12 handicap, said he, too, was looking forward to the challenge of Bukit Kemuning.
“There is a good rivalry among the players. And it makes the event a lot more exciting and fun to be part of it,” he said.
For his part, 10-handicapper Eric said his game was “in pretty good shape” and was likewise hoping to do well on Saturday.
“But it also depends on the day – if you find your rhythm early on and hit the ball with confidence, it could go your way,” he said.
”Also, there are some good players in the tournament and it is always difficult to win. Nevertheless, I will give it my best shot and see what happens.”
Indeed, if all goes according to plan like it has for the past 22 years, Saturday should be another great celebration for Lt Col Otto and the tournament itself.