A new chapter in golfing history

PUTTING THE GAME RIGHT ON COURSE N. Balakrishnan (right) captain, Gymkhana Club Golf Annexe and P. Ve. S. Vencatasubramaniam, honorary secretary, Madras Gymkhana Club Photo: K.V. Srinivasan

PUTTING THE GAME RIGHT ON COURSE N. Balakrishnan (right) captain, Gymkhana Club Golf Annexe and P. Ve. S. Vencatasubramaniam, honorary secretary, Madras Gymkhana Club Photo: K.V. Srinivasan  

GOLF The recently-launched academy at the Madras Gymkhana Club will soon offer world class facilities to players

C hennai might have quite a golfing history — for instance, the annual match between the Madras Gymkhana Club and the Bangalore Gymkhana Club is the second-oldest surviving club match, behind the one contested by Oxford and Cambridge — but it has not produced a champion to rival the likes of Jeev Milkha Singh or Arjun Atwal.

Perhaps in recognition of this, the Madras Gymkhana Club Golf Annexe recently launched its golf academy, in an attempt to provide golfers top-notch facilities and coaching in Chennai itself.

“We want to create something along the lines of the MRF Pace Academy,” says N. Balakrishnan, Captain, Gymkhana Club Golf Annexe.

So far, serious golfers from Chennai have needed to travel to other cities, sometimes even abroad, to gain access to world class training facilities. By setting up this academy, the club is looking to obviate this need.

“As of now, we have reasonable practice facilities, but they aren't up to USGA (United States Golf Association) standards,” says Balakrishnan. “The idea is to set up sufficient facilities to recommended standards. Over the next two years, we are looking at installing practice greens, a pitching range and other such facilities.”

Golfers at the academy will also have access to renowned coaches, he says. “In February, we invited Brett Langley, a PGA coach, for a six-day clinic, dealing with all aspects of the game, including sessions for our coaches.”

“In all, around 60 golfers, both juniors and seniors, attended this clinic,” says P.V.S. Vencatasubramaniam, Secretary, Madras Gymkhana Club. “It would cost more than Rs. 1 lakh to travel to the U.S. for a clinic, whereas they had to pay only Rs. 9,000 for a session here. In this manner, we're planning to bring in a reputed coach every quarter or every six months.”

“We're also looking at sponsoring training for the children of caddies, if we spot some talent,” he adds.

“Recently, we conducted Tamil Nadu's first professional caddies' tournament,” says Balakrishnan. “We invited caddy-pros from all the clubs in Tamil Nadu for the event. The idea was to sharpen their competitive skills. They've been playing for a while, but are in this in-between stage, where they cannot play amateur tournaments , and are yet to gain membership of the PGTI (Professional Golfers Tour of India). We've identified two players on the basis of this tournament to help them reach the next stage, through coaching programmes and PGTI qualifying events.”

The club has also been running a junior programme for the last 12 years, says Balakrishnan, and currently has around 45 trainees. “They train every Wednesday, and play regular tournaments,” he says. “At the initial stage, the kids don't have to be members of the club; we'll provide them with clubs and equipment.”

But more can be done to broaden the pyramid at the junior level, he says. “We haven't really pushed schools to send their kids for the junior programme. We must do more of that. We need to invite schools, make them aware of how the course works, how much it costs; many get put off from playing golf, thinking it's very expensive. It's about as expensive as tennis, which a lot of schoolchildren play.”

More young girls need to take up the sport, says Balakrishnan. “It's been a problem with Chennai. Even the Ladies' tournaments conducted in Chennai see a lot more participation from girls from the North, or Bangalore, many of whom are youngsters. Most of the Chennai golfers are older women who've played the sport for a while. I guess parents need to get more actively involved, and encourage more girls to play golf.”


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