It is not too often that one comes across quality international sporting events in India. The reasons are many, but top of the list is a viable sponsor. It is hard to find sponsors with the requisite zeal, passion and love for the game. It is generally a simple equation for them, what is their take away from it? Period. Nothing wrong there, but it makes the whole process a lot more mechanical, passion less and, sort of, bereft of soul! As for sportsmen, they can find their own motivations and reasons to succeed. Who cares?
But, luckily, not in golf. The sponsor rush may not exactly be bursting through the roof, but in quality, it is absolutely top of the line. Passsion of the patrons is driving the game here as much, as of the players. Sponsors are truly life and soul of golf, beyond their corporate gains or any other reasons one may think of…
Thus, during the recently concluded Women Indian Open 2015, when patrons were seen in full force, all through, it was hardly surprising. Mr K P Singh, Chairman DLF Group led the star cast, which included Mr Pawan Munjal, the Title Sponsor of the event, as well as one of the principle promoter of golf in India; Ms Kavita Singh, president of Woman Golf Association in India, Yes Bank representatives and almost the entire senior leadership of DLF.
Lets understand and appreciate the comittment of these two giants, the DLF Group and the Hero Moto Corp, more closely. If we call DLF the flag bearer of the modern Indian Golf; and how it helped develope golf into a major sporting cum business idea in India, it will be no exaggeration. It was the rare combination of the love, uderstanding and futuristic vision for golf, coupled with some astute business sense of Mr K P Singh, that golf was thought to be a big business cum sporting idea in India, way back in 80s. It all started with his dream of creating a world class golfing facility then, which got translated on ground in ninetees and rest, as they say, is History. Till then, Indian Golf was mainly the domain of the Indian armed Forces and a very few select,elite, courses in India. The idea of DLF Golf and Country Club was sort of initiator and catalyst for golf based real estate growth in the country. The game of golf has been the direct beneficiary.
DLF Golf and Country Club was, arguably, the first real estate based golf facility, which was truly world class. Golf aficionados and patrons of good life flocked to the facility. In no time it was over subscribed. Anyone who came and played here was effusive in its praises and wanted more. In no time the idea caught the imagination of the rest of the nation. Today, virtually every major city has atleast one such successful project on ground. This gave golf the boost it was looking for.
Meanwhile, DLF made sure that the game also progreses in tandem. So, it not only patronised almost all Indian Top Golfers, at some time or the other, it also made sure that lesser privileged players get supported and remain engaged with the sport.The effects are already visible with a No of top class golfers coming out of the country with amazing regularity, which is only going to multiply in times to come.
Mr Pawan Munjal’s love for this sport needs no introduction. He has been the longest standing supporter of the Indian Golf. He almost ‘owns’ both the Indian Opens, Men and women, each one an European Tour Event. He also has been, virtually, single handedly promoting and supporting the Ladies Professional Tour in India, for some time now. At international level too, he is a major presence in the golfing arena, Tiger Woods being his most prominent partner in his endeavours. This move has some very strategic implications for the Indian golf and how it is percieved world over. Apart, he is supporting many of the Indian Golfing superstars, including Anirban Laihiri, Shiv Kapur and the likes. His contribution to the sport in collosal, worthy of a government.
The role of these two groups in the deveopment of Indian golf has been so over bearing that if ever, one will compile top three promoters of Indian Golf, Hero and DLF will have to be two out of those three, in whichever order. Indian Armed forces being the third party.
Coming on to the performances in the Indian Women Open. The Indian women were in full force, led by indomitable Smriti Mehra, the lioness of Indian golf, Vani Kapoor, the current India No 1, Young Aditi Ashok, one of the brightest young Indian girls around, and a host of other upcoming young ladies to include Neha Tripathi, Saanya Sharma, Amandeep Drall, and not forgetting very stylish Sharmila Nicollet. To be fair, the performance of the Indian Contingent was creditable, given the chances they get to play in such stellar fields and in such competitive environments.
Emily, the eventual winner(par) led from wire to wire to win her maiden tournament, in her rookie year. Cheyenne Woods, niece of Tiger Woods, put up a solid diplay of Golf. She was very much in contention till the last two holes of the event, before finishing bogey, double bogey to blow away her chances. She, however, had the major share of the gallery all through the event and impressed everyone with her poise, grace and approach to the game. Trickle effect of genes was unmissable.
Apart, Becky Morgan too played solid golf and hung on till the very end, but could not quite finish the job. She missed some real cruel puts, especially on the last day. Malene put in a solid all round performance of her own and finished T 2 with Cheyenne Woods and Becky Morgan (+1). French lady, Gwladys Nocera, the defending champion, started well with a steady 75 but lost steam on this tricky Gary Player lay out and finished 12 th, with a score of +8
Four Indians made the cut, led by Vani. Aditi had the best scores amongs the Indians, though, competing in the Amateur category. Simi and Sanya were the other two. Aditi, whom I have seen growing from her junior days, continues to impress with each outing of hers at the international level. It is only a matter of time that she will be a force to reckon with at this level. This is my gut feeling. Vani, too, put in solid two days of golf, after a slow first day, to finish a creditable T21. Vani is gritty player and one will hear more about her in the days to come. Aditi was T 13 and was declared the best amateur golfer for the event.
Though the course was supposed to be the home turf for the Indians, especially Vani, who plays at DLF regularly, but that advantage was largely nullified due to newly laid back 9s coming into play, with this event. First 9s are too not that old, either. So, we practically had a new course to content with. There went the home edge, right out of the window. Over all, it was a performance of which Indian women golf will not be too dis-satisfied with.
For Emily, it will always remain a dream venue, for it was her first win on the tour. I spoke to her father, immediately after the prize distribution ceremony. He was overwhelmed with the emotions, very much mirroring her daughter’s sentiments while delivering her acceptance speech. He was also effusive in his praise for the course, the conduct and everything else associated with the event. He said it will stick in his memory for times to come.
A quick word about the course (it deserves a full article, which I will write, subsequently), it is a great design by the legendry Gary Player and some outstanding work done by the team DLF in a record time. Mr Aakash Ohri, an Executive Director with DLF Group and the man directly in charge of the whole project deserves all the praise and kudos, which people were effusive in showering during their speeches. One does not get to see many like this gentleman, who likes to keep a low and dignified profile but is a master of execution. What a visual delight this course has turned out to be.
With the kind of finesse and passion displayed in bringing this event together by the various stake holders, it is a reasonably good assumption to say that Indian golf is on the right lines and more importantly, in the right hands at the moment. The results are obvious, too. The men have already taken a decisive leap on the world stage with some very powerful display of golf by Aniban and Co. It is about time that Indian women also gather some momentum and make a goodish move, building on this momentum. This tournament, definitely, has been a step in that direction.The players, their support staff and the general public were thoroughly enthralled by a great course and top notch conduct of this event. Some great memories were carried home, I am sure.