Deepinder Singh Khullar reflects on a changing landscape for Junior Golf In India. He assess it’s importance and the route to achieve bigger successes in golf.
I clearly remember the days when I took to the game as a 10 year old. More often than not I was the only junior playing on the golf course. This meant I had to either play the round all by myself or join my fathers group whenever somebody dropped out. I had no friends to play with as they all preferred playing cricket. I had developed a liking for the game and the more I played the more my liking for the game seemed to grow.
MY DAD’S ROLE
Looking back I also think my father played a great role in getting me to fall in love with this game. Who would have guessed that one day it would become my profession. We as teachers and parents must realise that the future of golf lies in todays Juniors and now it is our duty to get them to fall in love with this great game.
Back in those days driving ranges and equipment were almost non existent. Uncles travelling abroad were your best bet on getting a new set of golf clubs. The tournaments we took part in were few in number and were organised thanks to the IGU.
Fast forward 26 years and things have changed for the better. Todays junior golfer has a choice of manufacturers to choose from, a number of golf courses and driving ranges with great junior training programmes have sprung up, there are now several junior tours to compete on and to hone your skills on at an early age. All this has resulted in an increase in the number of youngsters taking to the game. Things are moving in the right direction but I believe we are still a far cry from producing champions that can consistently dominate at the world stage.
In recent times we have had a handful of stars like Anirban Lahiri, SSP Chowrasia and Aditi Ashok. They have done wonders and have put India on the international golfing map. But as I said they are just a handful! For a nation that has been playing golf since the early 1800s and being the first country to get golf courses outside of Great Britain we are surely lacking.
So where does the problem lie? Having seen the game for a number of years both as a player and a teacher I can guarantee that it is not the lack of talent or skill of the Indian player. Neither is it the coaching system. Teachers in India are now as qualified and skilled as their counterparts around the world. Even the golf courses we play on have improved over the years and are at par with anything the West has to offer. The recently concluded Indian Open at the DLF Golf and Country Club was testimony to this as even the best players on the European tour were brought to their knees by this track.
Where we lack is in the size of our talent pool. I am talking about sheer numbers. Newer golfing nations like China, Korea and Thailand are growing at a much faster rate. Apparently there are almost a thousand teenagers in Korea that can play scratch or better. Such is the depth of their talent. Hence their recent domination of the LPGA tour coming as no surprise.
THE COURSE AHEAD
So looking forward how can we get more kids to start playing golf. At present mostly kids from affluent families are into the game. The only way to make it accessible to the masses is to have more public golf courses and driving ranges. Golf being an Olympic sport the Government needs to step forward and help in its growth big time.
TAKE IT MASS
The real strength lies in the middle class. I know for a fact that students coming from mediocre backgrounds are more disciplined and hardworking than the rich country club kid. These traits are vital in the making of a champion. No surprises that some of Indias top golfers have these traits inherent as they come from military backgrounds. Jeev Milkha Singh, Jyoti Randhawa, Anirban Lahiri, Digvijay Singh, Himmat Rai, Shubhankar Sharma are all army kids and the list goes on. So the recipe for producing a champion golfer is rite in front of us.
Also coaches and parents play a big role in getting kids to develop a liking for the game. The idea being to get them to enjoy golf. Kids should look forward to going to the golf course. Playing tournaments should be a fun experience. I often watch parents being very result oriented and putting too much pressure on their kids. Each shot is treated as a life or death experience. Playing under so much stress eventually results in juniors walking away from the game. So the more we can get kids to start liking the game the more time they will spend on the golf course. The more time they spend playing the better they get.
If we can somehow get a large numbers of kids into playing golf then we increase our chances of uncovering more and more hidden gems. Eventually serving as role models for future generations to come and leading to the growth of the game.
Even at a non competitive level golf is a great game for kids as it teaches several life skills like patience, discipline, integrity, decision making, fighting spirit, and honesty to name a few. Such is the greatness of sport that it teaches you all about life. It instils in you certain traits that will help you in growing up to be better individuals and also help to excel in any career that you may opt for in the future.