Jan 9, 2017: If Indian sport is slowly but surely changing its colours every year, golf has been a quiet part of the story. In just the past half a decade, the sport has witnessed heartening glories, phenomenal new talents and hopeful developments in infrastructure.
It’s that time of the year when a wishlist must be made, so here’s how we roll it out. For best results, read these as targets and not fantasies…
1. Aditi, Anirban, Vaani and co. must make a splash
Not many outside Bangalore knew of an Aditi Ashok before Rio 2016 but the Olympics and her stormy debut in the pro circuit made her last year’s finest golfing story. Ashok got seven top-ten finishes from her 13 Ladies European Tour tournaments and wound up with an Indian Open title. The 18-year-old will still be a rookie on the LPGA but we’re hoping she swings well at the majors. In the same breath, we must also mention Gurgaon girl Vani Kapoor, who has impressed especially in her Asian outings and turns just 23 this January.
2. Tiger must roar more, revisit India
His maiden visit and a mini-match at the DGC in 2014 was such a whirlwind affair, we are not sure it ended up inspiring anyone except a bunch of photographers. But Tiger Woods, here’s a humble invite to return to our courses again, this time on an official trip. Just the sight of you teeing off and spending time with our young guns will be a massive boost for the sport in India.
The man seems to have a tight schedule (he plays four events in five weeks starting January 26) but hey, we’re just a few hours away from your much-loved Dubai, right Tiger?
3. A bigger, better golf film from Bollywood
To be fair, 2016’s Freaky Ali wasn’t a bad start with Nawazuddin Siddiqui doing a fine job playing the ‘outsider’ golfer but after all, the film was a comedy from the house of Sohail Khan, if you know what we mean. Bollywood has long trained its eyes on sporting themes and biopics on cricketers seem to be hot cakes, but post Dangal’s phenomenal success, we know that a mainstream film on a non-cricket sport too can whet the appetite of a young nation if it has the right craft.
Just a few miles off the manicured lawns of Delhi and Mumbai, there are many stupendous stories of golfers and caddies that are worthy of a celluloid life. Give this tale of Mumbai’s Anil Mane a watch if you haven’t already to know why golf must get more doses of Bollywood treatment.
4. More democracy in the sport
Much has been said about golf shedding its elitism in the recent past but more action must happen on the ground should golf want to compete with hockey or football in India. We hope for top-down awareness of the sport this year from the policy level and the understanding from ministries that if golf academies prop up in satellite towns, they could inspire more talents.
For golf to tone down its ‘pricey’ or niche tag, more participants from diverse backgrounds will need to step in this year. The sport needs more heroes who will bring in amateurs and followers. We shall be looking at Aditi Ashok closely this year again!
5. Golfing Holidays for the Family (and not in Delhi or Bangalore)
Which brings us to golfing tourism, another tool to democratize and popularize the sport in India. We don’t need to look too far, for countries such as Malaysia and South Korea have successfully packaged the sport as a leisure holiday idea, eventually even spinning much money off it.
Back home, when we have stunning locales and weather that’s conducive to simply watch or amble around a game, there’s much opportunity. Ananda in the Himalayas has set a fine example with its six-hole course while Oxford Golf and Country Club in the lap of Sahyadris too is a lesser-known destination that can charm even the sporting agnostics. If tourism policy makers, corporates and tournament organizers work hand-in-hand, big golf events can be bigger holiday events for the Indian family.
2017 has flown off well so far, here’s hoping it lands exactly where this list wants it to!
By Malay Desai