For two decades, Singapore's No. 1 golfer Mardan Mamat has racked up a catalogue of achievements and now a teenager, who calls him mentor, wants to follow in his trailblazing footsteps.
In 2013, Abdul Hadi became the first Malay player to represent Singapore at the South-east Asia (SEA) Games since Mardan's outing at the 1995 Chiang Mai Games.
While his first stab at the biennial Games ended in disappointment as Hadi and his team-mates returned from Myanmar empty- handed, he is determined to make amends on the back of his most successful year.
The 19-year-old captured four Malaysian state amateur titles last year. He was selected by the Singapore Golf Association (SGA) as part of its seven-man provisional team who will be whittled down to four by March ahead of the June 5-16 Games.
Said the Republic Polytechnic student after training yesterday at the Singapore Island Country Club: "We didn't achieve the targets we set out the last time but now playing at home and on a course (Serapong at Sentosa Golf Club) that we're familiar with, winning the team gold is definitely our target in six months."
National coach Luke Cantelo, a former teaching pro at the Butch Harmon School of Golf in Dubai who was hired by the SGA in April, has been impressed with Hadi's work ethic and attitude.
"He's like a sponge and soaks up all my instructions and goes back to work on it," said the Australian. "When he's on his game, his ball striking is very good and he makes a lot of birdies but he needs to cut out the mistakes and turn those bogeys into pars."
Learning to grind and persevere are traits that Mardan, who claimed his fourth Asian Tour title in November at age 47, has been instilling in his protege at Raffles Country Club where both are based.
"Mardan has been a big help and has been encouraging me since I was 14. It's great that someone like him believes in me and he's definitely someone whose career I look up to," said Hadi.
He hopes to join Mardan in the professional ranks after completing his national service.
The first half of 2014 had been a struggle and included the blow of missing out on the Asian Games in September.
But Hadi channelled that frustration into a stirring run that saw him claim amateur titles in Johor, Negeri Sembilan, Malacca and Penang states in the span of six weeks to close out the year.
He and his team-mates leave tomorrow for the prestigious Australian Master of the Amateurs at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club and will then compete in the Australian Men's Amateur Championships in Sydney later this month.
Said Hadi: "My confidence is definitely high after those wins and 2014 was by far the biggest year of my career."
Mardan's SEA Games debut in 1993 on home soil produced a team silver medal. Topping that with gold would show just how far his apprentice Hadi has come.
This article was first published on January 1, 2015.
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