My book at Ponderosa Golf & Country Club

“Please meet us at The Lodge,” said the phone message from Marketing Communications Consultant, Yvonne Loh, as I make my way to meet her and her team at Ponderosa Golf & Country Club.

Lobby of the Ponderosa Golf & Country Club clubhouse
This resort was among the first in Johor to buy a bulk order of my book, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage, at my book launch event last year.

Their resort accommodation is a boutique hotel with just 14 rooms and two suites and Yvonne told me, a copy of my book will be placed in every room for the guests’ reading pleasure.

Located just a 15-minute drive from JB city center, Ponderosa Golf & Country Club is endowed with an 18-hole golf course, a 16-room Mediterranean-style lodge, sports and recreational facilities and a spa.

Ponderosa has a familiar ring to its name because our grandfather or Ah Kong, introduced us to the Wild West by watching John Wayne movies at Rex and Lido cinemas, and from television series in the Cowboy-Red Indian genre when my siblings, cousins and I lived with our grandparents at No. 154 Jalan Ngee Heng during our school-going years.

The stained glass windows at the staircase landing
in The Lodge
Ponderosa was the name of a huge ranch in Nevada, owned by Ben Cartwright and his three sons, Adam, Eric “Hoss” and Joseph, better known as Little Joe – fictional characters from Bonanza, our favourite long-running TV series (1959 to 1973).

I remember joining Ah Kong in front of the Black & White box TV to watch the regular screenings of Bonanza, Wagon Train, Rawhide and Gunsmoke, among other popular Western TV series.

I can even recall the unforgettable opening scene of Bonanza that featured a map of the Ponderosa Ranch, gradually burning through from its center to the mesmerizing musical score – an instrumental piece played on the base guitar to a beat reminiscent of galloping horses!

Signing my book with the Heads of Departments,
Ponderosa Golf & Country Club
Unlike other TV series, Bonanza was more than just a cowboy show with shoot-outs between daring gun-slingers because it often had a distinct moral-of-the-story and family values to share with viewers.

Of course, we each had our favourite characters in the show and mine was the cute but impetuous youngest son, Little Joe, a role played by a young Michael Landon.

I remember being fascinated at how the Cartwright family was served by their cook named Hop Sing, a Chinese immigrant character dressed in Chinese sam-foo and who even wore a pigtail.

He was considered as close as a family member and came across as a faithful and considerate character. Hop Sing often added comedy relief to the drama but when he was upset, he would mutter Chinese expletives!

[The Bonanza TV series proved that the Chinese had already reached North America back in the 1800’s when the voyages of Admiral Cheng Ho charted the high seas under the instruction of the Chinese emperor, and immigrants decided to settle there.]

The team at the Sports & Recreation Centre as
well as the Housekeeping team
In Johor Baru, we too have a Ponderosa and while ours is not a ranch, it is a golf and country resort established some 25 years ago, co-owned by the prestigious Kuok Group, Lee Rubber Group and Tai Tak Group of companies.

I’m sure those of us who are familiar with Bonanza, the TV series, will agree that the owners must be the show’s Number One fans because they formed a company which they named, Bonanza Resorts Sdn Bhd.

While their golf and country club is named Ponderosa, the adjacent property developments are Ponderosa Woods (semi-detached houses) and Ponderosa Avenue, a commercial sector.

As I mull over these thoughts, I park my car and take a slow walk to The Lodge, the building where the rooms, gym and swimming pool are located.

I can see the wide arch windows of the nearby clubhouse, separated from The Lodge by a lush patch of grass which I later find out, happens to be called The Paddock!

Autographing my books in a suite room
I’m greeted by Sports & Recreation Manager, Jamie Lau, and when Yvonne joins us, we walk up a flight of stairs to reach the accommodation lobby and reception.

“There are no elevators,” said Yvonne explaining that the building was designed as a sprawling Mediterranean lodge with a few rooms for low density accommodation.

My eyes are riveted to the colours from the stained glass windows by the side of the staircase landing and I pause to take in the polished wooden bannister and terracotta floor tiles, all reminiscent of a rambling double-storey lodge within a ranch.

Jamie, who looks after the accommodation in the resort, tells me that most of their guests are from abroad and when the Café at the clubhouse is booked for a wedding venue, the rooms are convenient accommodation for visiting friends and family.

Before the team members join us in the suite to witness my book signing, Yvonne tells me that out of the all the books they have placed in every room, they managed to retrieve only six books because all the other books have been removed by guests!

Being ferried over to the clubhouse from The Lodge
While it is regretful that the books have gone missing, Yvonne is convinced that it was only because my book is so irresistible and un-put-down-able that guests who started reading, had to take it along to continue reading my interesting collection of stories!

She assured me that the resort will place another order to replenish the stock of books for the reading pleasure of their room guests.

After I autographed my books and met the team members and Heads of Departments, Yvonne invited me to join general manager, Ivan Teo, for a light lunch at their Chinese restaurant.

Can you hazard a guess for this restaurant’s name? [No prizes for the right guess.]

Yes, it’s Hop Sing!

Over a Chinese set lunch together, Ivan shares with me some of the highlights of the latest developments in this neighbourhood like sharing the clubhouse facilities and organized activities with residents in Taman Redang and Redang Lakeview to create a closer community.

In front of Hop Sing restaurant [L to R]
Yvonne Loh, yours truly, Ivan Teo
and Jamie Lau
Ivan explains that he holds the dual portfolio as general manager of the Golf & Country Club as well as for the Residential & Commercial Development arm of the company.

When he presented me with his name-card for the property development arm, I smile with full conviction that the owners are truly fans of the Country & Western genre because the name of this company is registered as, Rawhide Sdn Bhd!

We share a laugh about it and Yvonne tells me that the meeting room opposite Hop Sing restaurant is known as The Tavern while the ballroom which seats 280 guests is called, Trading Post.

She says, before the Food & Beverage outlet in the Sports & Recreation Center was renovated into the gym, it used to be called, The Trough!

While the trough may be for watering tired horses, she tells me that the pub in the clubhouse – the watering hole for tired ‘cowboys’ – used to be called Cantina before its recent name-change to The 19th Hole, one with a golfers’ identity.

Ivan, who is also Chairman of the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Johor Chapter, then goes on to discuss some ideas on creating more attractive tourist destinations here.

A post from the Ponderosa Golf & Country Club
Facebook page
We also talk about the recent news that announced the building of a bridge valued at RM41 million to link Permas Jaya to Taman Molek.

We agree that when this happens, it will certainly make neighbouring Taman Molek and Ponderosa developments more accessible.

Before I leave Ivan and Yvonne, and an informative and interesting time at Ponderosa, they reiterated their intention to replenish the stock of my books for their rooms and suites.

Nothing short of chaining the books to the room may stop guests from removing them but I’m deeply grateful that they are prepared to replenish the stocks if and when the books go missing again…

Thank you Ponderosa Golf & Country Club, for your generosity in sharing My Johor Stories with your room guests!

Thanks to your interest and support which has helped to put my book, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage, among other popular titles in the 2017 MPH Best Non-Fiction list.

Ponderosa Golf & Country Club is located at No. 3 Jalan Ponderosa 1/1, Taman Ponderosa, 81100 Johor Baru, Johor Tel: +607 – 354 9999. Visit: Facebook page @PonderosaGolfCountryClub

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