'This place is like my home'

DEADLINE: Jurong Country Club will close its doors in November next year.

Tucked away in an inconspicuous corner of Jurong Country Club's (JCC) driving range is a tiny snack bar.

It is where Madam Lee, 64, spends her weekdays making drinks, preparing food and stocking up the shelves.

The grandmother of three - who declined to reveal her full name - has been tending the stall for the past 15 years.

And there has never been a boring moment, she told The New Paper in an interview on Thursday.

"I like this job, all my friends are here," she said, referring to the golfers who patronise her stall.

"Coke for you?" she asked a regular customer even before he placed his order.

But ever since the Singapore Land Authority's announcement on Monday that JCC must surrender its 67ha site to make way for the terminus of the new Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail, Madam Lee has been reluctantly counting down the days till the snack bar closes.

JCC will close its doors in November next year - almost 20 years ahead of its lease expiry.

"I guess it is a sign for me to retire," Madam Lee said wearily.

She revealed she does not need to work for the money, but does so anyway because she enjoys the company of her customers.

She is such a fixture at the club that golfers notice her absence when she is not around.

She is also such good friends with her customers that she went on a holiday to Thailand with some of them three years ago.

"We know one another so well because of this club.

"If they forget to bring their wallets, I'll help them to pay for their drinks first. When my body is aching, they'll help me serve the customers."

The golfers also often offer to send her home when she knocks off at 9pm.


These close ties are what Madam Lee will miss most when JCC hands over its land next year.

"This place is like my home. I have been working here for so long, it'll be really sad when I have to leave."

When TNP was there, Madam Lee was treating a group of golfing buddies to drinks out of her own pocket.

One of them, a JCC member who wanted to be known only as Mr Lee, 46, said: "I have known Madam Lee since I joined the club. I always buy food, such as fast food, for her when I come here."

JCC is also special to Mr Lee. Fifteen years ago, he paid $87,000 for a membership package at the country club - the first club he ever joined.

"I slogged for 10 years just to save enough money. This is where I learnt how to play golf."

Mr Lee, who drops by the club with his friends almost every day after work, is upset that the club's premises will be acquired. He said the payout is the least of his worries.

"It is not about the money, you can't put a price tag on the friendships I have made here.

"JCC is our meeting point. Our friendship is inextricably linked to playing golf here. Now, we will lose our nest."

His friend, a fellow club member who wanted to be known only as Mr Xu, 45, described the takeover of JCC's site as heartbreaking.

"I spend all my special occasions such as birthdays and Christmases here," said Mr Xu, who works in the food and beverage industry.

"Shutting down the club is like breaking up a big family. We can't possibly all go to the same club so some of us will definitely be split up."

When asked if he has plans to join other clubs, Mr Xu said: "I want to but what if the same thing happens again?"

JCC currently has about 2,700 members - 60 per cent hold golfing memberships.

Also looking ahead is Mr Mohamed Nor, 56, who has been working at the club as a housekeeping supervisor for seven years.


He has been scanning newspapers for job openings ever since news of the land acquisition broke.

Mr Mohamed, who earns more than $2,000 a month, said: "I was shocked, sad and angry when I heard about it.

"I am almost 60. Even if I can find another job, I won't earn as much as I do now."

Monday's news came as a double blow for Mr Mohamed, whose father died of prostate cancer two weeks ago.

"My life will definitely change. My future is unknown right now," he said.

As for Madam Lee, she knows exactly what she needs to do. She said: "I will start collecting all my customers' phone numbers so we can stay in touch."

This article was first published on May 16, 2015. Get The New Paper for more stories.