Golf legend and plane crash survivor Nellan is no more

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia has lost one of its golf greats.

V. Nellan (pic), one of the earliest Malaysian touring professionals, has died at the age of 71.

Nellan will be best remembered for helping Malaysia finish a creditable 11th at the 1977 World Cup in Manila, Philippines.

He and partner Bobby Lim proved that Malaysia were no pushovers against an illustrious field of stars that included South Africa’s Gary Player, Spain’s Seve Ballesteros, England’s Nick Faldo and Germany’s Bernhard Langer in the 50-team championship.

Nellan’s other World Cup appearance was up with Zainal Abidin Yusof where they finished joint 31st with Sweden in California, United States.

Prior to turning pro in 1969, Nellan started out as a 13-year-old caddie at Royal Selangor Golf Club in Kuala Lumpur.

He was known to have caddied for Tun Abdul Razak, Malaysia’s second Prime Minister and Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s Prime Minister.

During his playing days, Nellan stamped his mark by not missing a single Malaysian Open edition since his debut in 1969 until 1989.

He won the Malaysian PGA in 1987 to mark one his biggest individual wins.

Fellow veteran M. Ramayah, 65, was saddened by Nellan’s passing.

“I looked up to him like a big brother, ” said Ramayah, a 12-time World Cupper.

“He was a pioneer in the local golf scene together with Bobby Lim. They were the first to compete abroad in the late 60s, and opened the path for the rest to follow later in the 70s.

“I used to travel a lot with Nellan. I still remember one fond memory when we were playing in a second-tier European tournament Sweden.

“Despite missing the cut, he still came to watch me play the next day. Probably he was my lucky charm... I made a hole-in-one at the hole No. 9, earning a Rolex watch.

“We both enjoyed the moment so much that we opened five bottles of champagne at the clubhouse!

“We really have been through a lot together. We survived unscathed from the (MH684) flight from Singapore that crash landed two kilometres short of the runway at the Subang Airport in 1983.

“He’s indeed a great fighter, in 2007 he also fought off a colon cancer.”

Saujana Golf and Country Club general manager S. A. Nathan said it was hard to believe that his close friend Nellan was no more.

“We just met yesterday (Friday). He came to my office to see me and had Chinese food for lunch at Ara Damansara, ” said Nathan.

“He was in good spirits, our conversation lasted about an hour.”

“Nellan was Saujana Golf & Country Club’s Resident Pro and Golf Ambassador for almost 30 years. His students have lost a good teacher.

Sadly, Nellan could not live to see the launch of his biography “The Legend”, written by Bob Holmes and PC Shiv Das.

With a view to helping get the book printed, there is a fund-raising exercise being undertaken.

SimplyGiving website has been engaged to accept contributions for the book and well-wishers and fans can visit to make donations.

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