The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Priyanga Hapugalle wins final in ‘cliff hanger’


PriyRCGC Captain Priath Fernando handing over Pin Fernando Trophy to Winner Priyanga Hapugalle. (Vice Captain Nimal Piyaratne in the background)

anga Hapugalle wins final in ‘cliff hanger’

The Pin Fernando Trophy 2012 Sponsored by UTE CAT turned up trumps with the inaugural Ladies equivalent played for the Pam Fernando Trophy. Pam Fernando considered the Queen Mother of Sri Lankan Golf in the Guinness Book of Records as the ‘Oldest to win a National Championship’ in any Sport passed away last year and it was a fitting tribute to conduct a Match Play Ladies Tournament for a Challenge Trophy in her name.

The Late Pin Fernando considered one of the best Match Play Amateur Golfers in his day was honoured with the Pin Fernando Trophy being introduced in the Centenary Year 1979 in recognition of the Late Champion’s contribution to the Club and game. The Late Pin was also the President of the RCGC in 1979 and the format chosen for the Tournament was to encourage ‘Match Play’ on handicap open to Golfers with a handicap of 18 and under.

Initially a Qualifying Round was played and the best 32 Cards qualified for the Match Play stage played over about 3 months. Despite the Tournament being long drawn out with quite a few ‘Walk/overs’ awarded the Match Play format always evoked much interest and great rivalry. Golf played usually on a medal round basis(Best score against the Course) does not have the thrill of Match Play which can be described as ‘Man-to-Man’. ‘Hand-to-hand’ combat! The skill, experience and challenge one on one has favoured the lower handicap Golfer with the vast majority of the past winners being single figure Golfers and some famous names who went on to great heights.

The first winner in 1979 was Senaka Senanayake the ‘Prodigy’ who apart from his inane Artistic talent was a highly talented sportsman Captaining Junior Cricket at Royal College and winning many a Trophy at Golf. Japanese Suguro, Morita, Doug Brown, Bennett Chua, Paul Swee and Sat Ten Fatt were the International members who won this amazing Tournament in the past. Among the winners Roll Call are some past Sri Lankan ‘Greats” such as Jayantha Galagedera, Willie Barsenbach, Surein Abeyewardene, Norman Chandraratne, Joe Perera, Ajmal Uwise, Bandula Weerasinghe, Nimal Perera, the current RCGC Captain Priath Fernando way back in 1984 and this years Runner-up Chamath Kulasinghe in 1999. Pheroze Billimoria won twice in 1985 and 1988,Alain Gyi in’87,’96,Sarath Wickramaratne in ’90,’96, Arjun Fernando ’95 and 2000, Mohan Ratnayake 2001, 2005 and the only player to defend the Title and win the Pin Fernando three times Ranil Pathirana in 2002,2009 and 2010.

The brilliance of the Pin Fernando Trophy Tournament is underlined by the fact that in the 33 year history in addition to the above winners Asian Silver Medalist Nandasena Perera won in 1989 and National Champ and presently Pro on the Asian Tour Mithun Perera won in 2006.
In this background to make the Tournament even more ‘breath-taking’ the format was ‘shortened’ in T 20 style with the ‘Q’ Round played to Qualify the best 8 Players who then played on a Knock-out basis on Sunday, Monday and the Final on Tuesday. The standard of Golf was extremely high with the last qualifier being Nett 2 under par!

The youngest qualifier Prashan Peiris lost in the Q/Final 1 Down to Sudath Kumar, while the Oldest qualifier Prof. A.H. Sherriffdeen went down fighting all the way 1 down to the eventual winner Priyanga Hapugalle in the 2nd Quarter Final. The Final was a fantastic climax to the Tournament with both players displaying great skill and competition in an epic battle which took over 4 hours and eventually went down the 19th hole. The Captain and Sponsor Priath Fernando who Refereed the Final exclaimed “It was a ding-dong battle all the way with neither getting more than 1 up and the other fighting back”. Chamath Kulasinghe had a lot of honour in defeat having led or been 1 up most of the time (1 up at the start,1 up at the turn) and 1up playing the 18th. Priyanga kept clawing his way into the game and none better than when he was 1 up going to the 15th only to lose the 16th and 17th to give Chamath the vital 1 up playing the last hole! Both players were on the 18th Green in two but Chamath putting first left himself about 4 to 5 feet short of the hole. Priyanga with great composure putted dead with Chamath giving the Putt and having to sink his putt to win the Match. The greatest tension and gentle turn on the tricky 18th Green saw Chamath ‘miss’ and the Final going to the ‘Sudden-Death’ stage!

Priyanga playing off a 13 Handicap belied his experience of Six years to clinch the Final with a 6 to Chamath’s un-forced error where he had the game for the asking, playing to an open Green after Priyanga hit his third into the Green-side bunker following a duffed 2nd shot! Chamath suddenly felt the pressure and pulled his 3rd shot inexplicably out-of-bounds, left of the 1st Green. Chamath a previous winner did really play very good Golf to lead most of the way and what is spectacular is that Priyanga had 8 Pars,2 Birdies and still the Match went to ‘Sudden-Death’.The Ladies Final was more one sided with Swen Selvaratnam playing steady Golf overcame Roshani Sangani 5/3 in the Final despite giving 13 strokes.

Priyanga Hapugalle’s win is a testimony of the steady Golf he has played over the past year and his friends who followed him closely claim that he can now give-up as he has got his name on the ‘Board’ !

A great spectacle of an event worthily Sponsored by UTE CAT and nurtured by the RCGC a Tournament of real worth each year.

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