Interest, practice and improvement are the three universal rules that work in every sport, irrespective of the nature of its play. Amateur golf is one such format of the luxurious game that is in sync and amateur golfers keep the spirit alive, believes Indian golfer Rishi Narain.
“Such amateur competitions drive golfers to play regularly, trying to improve their game and equipment. These golfers are the life and the pulse of the game,” the 1982 Asian Games gold medalist and former National coach Rishi Narain said in an interview to The Statesman.
Narain, speaking at the sidelines of the Day 2 of the ongoing 17th edition Mercedes Trophy golf tournament, shed light on the current state of golf in India and future aspirations, and feels the need for more players.
“To sustain the sports, you need a lot of people playing the game. People who are interested, who play, practice and want to improve,” he said.
Narain laid the foundation of the lavish sport back in 1982, winning the gold medal for India in the inaugural edition on the Asian Games golf event. Since then, India hasn’t seen much success in the game of golf, be it Asian Games or Olympics for that matter. However, the veteran believes the transition has been positive.
“A lot has changed in the past 30-40 years. We can see a lot more world class golf courses now in India, which weren’t there when we used to play. Courses here and courses overseas were very different and thus it was difficult for us to prepare for international tournaments. Now, we also have latest contemporary equipment easily available in India, which wasn’t possible back in that era.”
Talking about the coaching of amateurs, Narain called it a “tremendous” change that has happened in India.
“There wasn’t qualified coaches that time, who knew about coaching professionally. Things have changed positively over the past decades. We are way behind the rest of the world in terms of infrastructure and a lot of things are to be done to attract people to play the game,” he said.
Narain urged institutional bodies to come together for the betterment of the sport in India.
“Indian Golf Union (IGU) besides Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI), Women’s Golf Association of India (WGAI), Golf Industry Association etc. are the institutional bodies that can initiate the development of the sport in India. National Golf Academy of India (NGAI) is also there to help with the coaching. All of these bodies require to come together to work on the grassroots development of the game,” he said.
On a never-ending debate over golf being the luxury sport and out of reach for the poor and middle-class, Narain said, “Fortunately, in a few cities like Delhi, there are expensive courses but there are inexpensive ones as well. Like DDA has built courses in Qutub region, Bhalaswa (North Delhi) and another course is under construction in Dwarka. For approximately Rs.700-800, you can play a five hours of game, which is not very expensive. Common level golf equipment is about Rs.25-30000 a set. That’s a lot of money but that golf set will last you for at least 10 years, comparatively more than any cricket bat or something.”
Narain hailed the DLF Golf and Country Club, Gurugram as well, which is hosting the tenth leg of the 12-city tournament, “This is an absolutely fantastic golf course with world class facilities. It’s great to be able to do any kind of golf tournament here.”
The selected golfers from across 12 cities in India will compete in the National Finals on March 14. Three Winners from the National Finals will further progress to the Mercedes Trophy World Finals, to be held in Stuttgart, Germany in September, to compete against winners from all over the world. One winner will travel to Scotland to witness the British Open at Royal Birkdale in July.
When asked if the Indian talent is ready to take on World’s best golfers, Narain said, “With amateur golfers, the most important thing is how you play on a specific day, because in golf, your form fluctuates from day to day. In World Finals, you will have to see who will have a good day.”