Forgotten man Ben Leong hopes to make the most of a second chance at resurrecting his golf career when he tees up at the Worldwide Holdings Selangor Masters, an Asian Tour event he won in 2008.
The 28-year-old Malaysian has been on the long road to redemption following a 15-month spell on the sidelines due to a debilitating back injury which he initially feared would end his career on the Asian Tour.
Slowly but surely, Leong is back on his feet and swinging like how he used to when he toppled Asian legend Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand in a head-to-head duel to lift the Selangor Masters trophy six years ago.
With the RM1.3 million Worldwide Holdings Selangor Masters returning for its ninth staging on the Asian Tour at Seri Selangor Golf Club from Sept 18-21, Leong is looking forward to returning to the scene of his most famous triumph.
His confidence has also been boosted by a win on the domestic PGM Tour last weekend but Leong is not putting unrealistic goals when he returns to the Asian Tour.
“Last week felt good, although it felt as bit weird because it’s a long lost feeling. The last time I won a tournament was at the Worldwide Holdings Selangor Masters in 2008. This is surely a confidence booster when I return to the Selangor Masters in a few weeks’ time,” said Leong.
Leong’s world came crashing down in the summer of 2012 when he was diagnosed with a prolapsed disc, which is commonly known as bulging disc. It knocked him out for 15 months where he couldn’t swing a club, let alone walk without pain in the back.
Thankfully, he did not require surgery and through a rehabilitation programme which focused on strengthening his back core muscles, Leong was able to start hitting balls again last November.
“I feel good now,” said Leong. “It was tough though. I didn’t know when I could play golf again or even lead a normal life. It wasn’t great. In the early afternoons, I would have to lie down on the bed as my back would be so sore. Now, to be able to walk and play golf, and winning last week, it’s like a second chance in my golfing life.
“It will be good to be play at the Selangor Masters again, back on familiar ground as well at the Seri Selangor Golf Club. I have great memories and I can’t wait for it to start. I know I have the capabilities but I won’t start thinking about winning and I won’t expect much.
“Every day, just being able to play golf and walk is already a bonus. Playing good or bad is another thing.”
Leong said his father, N.C. Leong, who was on his bag when he won his first Asian Tour title, was a pillar of support during his recovery period. “I committed to my exercises and trusted my doctor’s advice. He said it would take time, and I was consistent with my workout,” said Leong.
“My dad has been so supportive, and no one was as determined and patient as he was. It was tough for him looking from the outside. He felt sorry and bad for me but he couldn’t be any more patient. He kept encouraging me to maintain my regime, to trust it and I listened to him. I’m glad it’s worked out.
“I gave myself a year to come back and if it didn’t get any better, the last resort was surgery like what Tiger (Woods) did. But so far, the back is holding up and I’m maintaining my regime.”
Leong currently does not hold any playing status on the Asian Tour and plans to return to Qualifying School early next year to fight for his card on the region’s premier Tour. He believes he is now more mature as well in understanding his own game.
“I want to get back on the Asian Tour. That’s my goal. I’ll play more on the local tour and sharpen up my game again. When I came back to play, I started to understand my golf swing better than when I first came out. I’m not as stressed as before as I understand my game better. I’m using Track Man and I understand the numbers. Once you understand the numbers, it is really simple.”