In the past 22 years, the Indian economy has come a long way. Coincidentally, Indian golf has also touched new heights.
As the $1.25 million Hero Indian Open returns to Delhi for its 50th edition to be held at the Delhi Golf Club from November 7 to 10, Ali Sher, the first professional from the country to win the Asian tour title in 1991 (amateur P.G. Sethi won in 1965), remembers the days when the sport was striving for recognition.
Change of profile
“Earlier, it was known as the ‘old man’s game.’ Now, Indian players are doing well and that perception has changed,” said the 53-year-old on the occasion here on Monday.
“After my win, I got membership of a golf club and people started recognising me in buses,” he said.
Interestingly, the Indian Open began its journey as a £500 event way back in 1964. Ali continued, “Things started to change after my victory. The media coverage increased and everybody took note of our performances.
“Now, the equipment has become better, players are visiting the gym, doing yoga and other specialised training. Besides, sponsors are putting in money for big tournaments.”
Vijay Kumar, who claimed the prestigious title in 2002, agreed.
“The profile of the sport has changed drastically. Today, a lot of players are keen to turn pro and play in bigger tours abroad. There is money and prestige, and golf is seen as a career option.”
However, C. Muniyappa, the first Indian Open winner (2009) from the southern part of the country, gave another picture.
“The number of tournaments have increased, but there is lack of sponsorship for several players like me. Without a sponsor, it is difficult to survive in this sport.”
All the top Indian professionals — Arjun Atwal, Jyoti Randhawa, Jeev Milkha Singh, S.S.P. Chowrasia, Gaganjeet Bhullar, Anirban Lahiri and Shiv Kapur — are expected to compete in the golden jubilee year of the tournament, which has been held through five decades without any interruption.
Michael Thompson, a PGA tour title winner this year, and Robert Rock, who has won two European Tour events, are the other attractions.
All the top Indian professionals are expected to compete in the golden jubilee year The presence of Michael Thompson and Robert Rock is the other attraction
All the top Indian professionals are expected to compete in the golden jubilee year
The presence of Michael Thompson and Robert Rock is the other attraction