Feature: Q&A with Mithun Perera

Wed 15 May 2013

Feature: Q&A with Mithun Perera

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Kuala Lumpur, May 15: Mithun Perera is the new kid on the block on the Asian Tour, which celebrates its milestone 10th season in 2013. The stocky Sri Lankan, son of the famous Nandasena and the first from his country to earn a full Asian Tour card, has big dreams on the region’s premier Tour which he shares with asiantour.com. He already has two runner-up finishes in Asia but is eyeing the first victory.
Starting into the new 2013 season, what have you set for yourself to achieve?
For me, it’s a learning experience being on the Asian Tour. Last year, I got into a few events and it’s my target to play well in my first full season this year. It’s certainly a new thing for me and I’ll try to do well.
Where you surprised that you finished in the top-61 of the Order of Merit last year to get a full card?
I didn’t expect to do so as I only had limited events, I think I played in only eight events. I got through from my ranking in India for the Asian Tour events in India and also received four invites. I’m really lucky to be the first Sri Lankan to have a full card on the Asian Tour. I’m so happy that I have a full card.
After your exploits last year, the golfing community in Sri Lanka must have been overjoyed?
For me, it’s not like that. Golf is still very new to everybody in Sri Lanka. I’m trying to promote Sri Lankan golf too. We have two local events now and hopefully we can get an ADT (Asian Development Tour) tournament there in the near future which will be good for us.
Mithun Perera of Sri Lanka Mithun Perera of Sri Lanka
Tell us what are your strong points in the game which has kept you amongst Asia’s best golfers?
For me, my tee shots are good and my putting is normally sharp. Distance wise, the golf courses these days are generally too long for me. I’ve also seen a lot of good players and I have learnt from them. I’m new on the Asian Tour and I want to learn and do well in the future. I really like Thaworn (Wiratchant) and Siddikur. They have different swings and different styles. They are my two favourite players. I’m really happy that I have a chance to play alongside them on the Asian Tour. Siddikur and I hit the same distances and he’s got a lot of success on the Asian Tour and he’s given me a lot of inspiration.
You have come close to winning on the Asian Tour in the past 12 months. How tough or easy do is it to land your first win?
Everybody wants to win. I believe that it takes only one good week to change a golfer’s life. I’m looking forward to that week. Now, I get to play in all the big tournaments on the Asian Tour. For me, it’s a good start. I finished well in the Avantha Masters (in India) last year and then I finished second in the Handa Singapore Classic. I have just tried to do well every time I played.
Are you the sort of guy who sets yearly goals?
I’m trying to finish in the top-10 this year, that’s my goal. If you aim high, you will finish in the top-60. My target is also to win one event on the Asian Tour. That’s my goal. I think it is achievable. Every tournament is important for me. I was the clubhouse leader in the Zaykabar Myanmar Open (in February) and thought I had a chance to play in a play-off but Chawalit (Plaphol) played so well to win. I want to win at least one Asian Tour event this year. I need a bit more luck. It will come very soon. I need to keep playing and focus on my game.
Not many golf fans know you yet. How would describe yourself as a golfer?
I can hit good shots (laughter). My strong putt is my putting and driving. I’m a short hitter but my accuracy is very high. I don’t rely too much on technology. My driver is about two years old but my fairway woods are about 12 years old as with my putter. I’m a feel player and I don’t believe in changing equipment. I’ve got a natural golf swing. I don’t try to hit hard. I’m hitting it 260 yards but I don’t try to hit it at 261. I’m not following the new technology. My woods are really old. (laughter)
Your father is a rather famous name in Asia through his exploits during the 1980s and 1990s. What was like growing up as a child to a golfer dad?
My father Nandasena is a legend and he is my coach too. When I was two or three years old, I would go to the golf course with him. Golf wasn’t new for me as my father is a golfer and he still coaches me. I play with him two or three times a week. He gives me a lot of advice as he has a lot of experience. I always discuss with him all the time about my game and seek his advice even when I’m out of the country competing. I’m so lucky to have my father as my coach.  A lot of people know my father and I’m so proud to be his son. Anywhere I go, at least somebody will know my father and they will help me because of that. He’s given me a lot of advice. He couldn’t get on the Asian Tour because he had Arthritis. I’m here because of his advice.
Mithun Perera of Sri Lanka Mithun Perera of Sri Lanka
But we gather that golf wasn’t your first sporting love?
My favourite sports were football and cricket. Until I was about 15, I played those sports all the time. After that, I somehow got interested in golf. I guess it was due to my father. Football is still my favourite sport though and I watch a lot of football. In Sri Lanka, you need to be a famous cricketer to make a good living. If I play good golf, I can make a good life for myself. Golf is in my genes. It’s got to help me.
What’s the best advice from your father?
He has always said you need to save shots … don’t throw away shots. Aim for one or two under a day and keep the score in your hands. If you can play two even par rounds, that would be good on most occasions. Don’t follow the other players, just play against the golf course.
Tell us about golf in Sri Lanka. Where do you think it’s headed?
Our golf history is about 134 years. But our first pro event was only held last year with the PGTI (India) Tour which I won. After that, they have increased to two more events at US$60,000 and US$70,000 prize money. Our target now is to get an ADT tournament and to show to uor people that golf is different. We want to try to bring international golf to Sri Lanka very soon.
Is it difficult to excel as a professional golfer from Sri Lanka?
It’s tough to get sponsorship. Golf is still so new. People think it’s a rich man’s sport and that’s why it’s tough to get sponsorship. But more people understand golf now. The government is involved, they are making an 18 hole golf course and the government also sponsors one event, through the Sri Lankan Port Authority. They are supporting golf and players. I’m working with the port authority, hence I’m a government servant. When I play in tournaments, I’m on duty leave. But in the next two to three years, golf will become bigger and better. There are plans to make more golf courses in my country, maybe five or six courses. We now have four. And then we aim to have an ADT event. Golf is a sport which golfers can earn money to survive. People are following my results and sponsors are getting interested. They see us making a living which is a good sign. Whenever I play, there are a lot of people following my progress and seeing how much we earn. We have two new guys turning pro, hopefully we’lll get more players and later start our own local tour.
About Mithun
Country: Sri Lanka
Date of Birth: December 26, 1986
Residence: Colombo
Family:  Single
Turned Pro: 2011
PROFESSIONAL WINS: (3) 2012 TATA Open, India, 2012 Standard Chartered Open, Sri Lanka, 2011 Haryana Open, India.
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Mithun sensationally finished inside the top-61 of the 2012 Order of Merit to earn a full Asian Tour card for 2013. Due to his country exemption category, the stocky Sri Lankan played in only eight Asian Tour events but it was enough to secure his place among Asia’s leading lights. He came agonizingly close to a sensational victory at the ISPS Handa Singapore Classic but settled for second place, finishing one shot behind eventual winner Scott Hend of Australia. Prior to that he placed 15th at the Panasonic Open India.
PERSONAL: Perera is the son to Nandasena, a famous name on the old Asian circuit during the 1980s and 1990s.