I still recall vividly my first meeting with Raymond Teoh. It was the late-1990s and I had been assigned to interview the founder of RGT Technology, then the nation’s largest single-shop golf retail outlet, and was more than a mite nervous.
This was, after all, a man who was rightly regarded as an icon not only in the golf industry, but sports as a whole. And, having been forewarned of Raymond’s reputation as a no-nonsense, speak-your-mind kind of guy, I walked into his office with the demeanour of a mouse strolling into the cat’s lair.
But Raymond was quick to put me at ease, offering with a huge smile to get me a teh tarik. Over the years, each time I needed insights into the state of the golf industry, Raymond always obliged and was invariably astute with his answers and opinions.
As most of the golf and sports fraternity in Malaysia know, Raymond sadly passed away of cancer on August 29 this year, aged 78. Tributes flowed in freely, many from his former protégés from the early 1980s to mid-1990s.
Having left a successful accountancy practice to venture into sports retail, first as general manager with RWJ Sports and later under his own company, Azinar Sports, followed of course by RGT Technology which he founded in 1995, Raymond mentored many who have gone to hold lofty positions in the sports and golf industries.
Among them is Anthony Francis, currently the sales manager for Winston’s, the regional distributor for Ping.
“Raymond was always extremely focussed on what he wanted to achieve. His motto was ‘Do it right the first time’,” remembers Anthony, who joined RWJ in 1982 as storekeeper and was there till 1995 when they closed.
“Although Raymond was very strict, he was a good boss actually. Whenever he travelled, he would buy stuff like t-shirts for the staff,” he went on with a smile.
Anthony noted that Raymond was relatively low-profile outside of work, keeping to family and a small circle of friends. “He drove a Honda Accord for a long time. Twice a week, he would leave the office at 4.30pm to play nine holes.”
And that brings us to Raymond’s other passion … his club since the 1980s, Kelab Golf Negara Subang (KGNS). In his later years, Raymond made KGNS his second home and served on the committee on several occasions, including stints as captain and as vice-president from 2017 until this year’s elections in April.
Former KGNS captain Dr Ronnie Yeo noted that Raymond loved the club with the same intensity he showed at work.
“Raymond was never a very good or serious golfer but he had a strong love for the game and the club,” said Dr Ronnie, whose friendship with Raymond stretches back to the early 1980s.
Regarded as one of the sports medicine pioneers in the country, Dr Ronnie first met Raymond when he was head of the sports medicine unit at the Ministry of Youth & Sports.
“Raymond was with RWJ then and they were heavily involved in sports sponsorship, especially squash. We became close friends and used to meet almost every evening at Royal Selangor Club and jog on Sunday mornings at Lake Gardens. We even set up a running club, Pacesetters, in 1983 and Raymond was the first president,” shared Dr Ronnie.
While they drifted apart over the last few years, Dr Ronnie noted that he made it a point to visit Raymond regularly towards the end. “I will always hold his memory close as a dear friend,” he said.
And that memory lives on for many of us in the golf industry as well. I know I will never forget him and that first teh tarik.
By Jonathan Ponniah