Bowling: Henry Tan, former national bowler and coach, dies at age 73

Henry Tan was rushed to Tan Tock Seng Hospital on Thursday (Aug 17) morning, where he died shortly after. He was 73.
Henry Tan was rushed to Tan Tock Seng Hospital on Thursday (Aug 17) morning, where he died shortly after. He was 73. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The man synonymous with Singapore bowling since the 1970s, Henry Tan, died of heart failure this morning with his family by his side. He was 73.

He is survived by his wife, Tamgelia Chua, 59,  a former national bowler and SEA Games medallist, his two children and two grandchildren.

Tan was rushed to Tan Tock Seng Hospital on Thursday (Aug 17) morning, where he died shortly after.

A tearful Singapore Bowling president Jessie Phua hailed Tan as a pioneer of the sport in Singapore.

He was Singapore's national coach from 2006 to 2013 and was named Coach of the Year in 2010 and 1984. He was also Sportsman of the Year in 1970 and 1975, and is one of just two people (the other being boxing's Syed Abdul Kadir) to win the two different awards.

Phua said: "It comes as a shock and a great loss to us.

"He's the first Singaporean bowler to put Singapore on the world map. He's a great man who devoted almost his entire life to the sport. He's ever so caring and kind to bowlers, but he will not hesitate to discipline them.

"Even at his age, he was still so open in his quest for knowledge and always so eager to learn new things from others. He soaked them up like a child with passion and love. He was a father figure to all of us."

In his prime during his bowling days, Tan won silver medals at the World Cup in 1970 and in the men's doubles event at the 1975 FIQ World Championships, where he also set a then-world record high game of 298.

As a coach, he groomed many national bowlers under his charge, including former captain Grace Young, Valerie Teo, present technical director Mervyn Foo and recently crowned Sportswoman of the Year New Hui Fen.

Foo, who trained under Tan's tutelage more than 10 years ago, said: "Every day when we see him was like a lesson.

"He's the one who got everything going for all of us. He created this pathway and we're forever grateful to him.

"He's a great and well-respected man who's a mentor to all of us. He always put others before himself. He's one of the few men whom you would see everyone greet whenever they see him.

"He always used to say that he's the old man of the group. But he's got so much wisdom which we always treasured."

Most of the team, including Foo, will not be able to attend the wake, held at 10 Ubi Road 4 from tomorrow until Tuesday, because the SEA Games team will be leaving for Kuala Lumpur on Thursday afternoon.

Foo said: "I'm sure that's what he wants us to do, to go to KL to get the job done."

New, 25, chuckled as she recounted how Tan would scold her. New, who trained under Tan for about four years when she was a youth, said: "He said I was the last person he lectured. After that, he didn't scold anyone anymore. 

"I was like the troublemaker. He used to always say that I have talent but yet to be realised, and that irritated him. He was like a grandparent whom I haven't had because all my grandparents died before I turned 12."