With the Delhi Golf Club League set to begin on September 29, fans are eagerly waiting to see some of the national capital’s best golfers challenge for top honors at the prestigious Delhi Golf Club, in Dr Zakir Hussain Marg. 1995 Gadgil Western Masters champion Gaurav Ghei, who is serving as mentor to team Sterling Swingers, hailed the tournament which began last year. Speaking to Hindustan Times during a press conference, the veteran golfer analyzed how the tournament’s second edition could be better than last year.
“So last year it was very new. It was the first time and everything was very new. So as General Balbir Sandhu (Chairman – Tournament Organizing Committee, Delhi Golf Club League) himself mentioned, we’ve got a few things to try to make it more transparent and fair. So whether it’s about the junior golfers, how many each team can have, whether it’s about handicapping”, he said.
Explaining how the tournament organizers have been dealing with some loopholes from the inaugural season, Ghei said: “So you know in India everybody finds a loophole how to get one upon the other. So there were a few teams who were trying a few loopholes. So we all got down and said “no, for the success of the league, it has to be competitive and it has to be fair.” So then all the team owners and mentors sat down and said “yes, whatever we decide should be for the long term prospects of the league and it should go from strength to strength every year.”
“So that way you know everybody came together and made some good decisions and So from the first year, this year we have a much more competitive affair, distribution of players and teams. Like I said, you know, every year I’m sure this year we will have a great league, but we will learn again for something for next year. And you know, as long as that is the spirit that you want to keep, having fair competition and good competition, the league will be a success “
The Delhi Golf Club League’s second season will have 20 teams participating, with the Grand Finale scheduled for October 22. Each team will consist of 20 players, and a mentor and a coach each. The tournament will be played on a ‘Four-ball better-ball Matchplay’ format. The league will be played in two stages; a round-robin stage, followed by knockouts. During the playoff match between two teams, each side will feature seven pairs (14 players). One pair from each team will face a pair from the other team in a ‘Four-ball better-ball’ format, with all the players playing off 75% of their original handicaps. Also, the 20 outfits have been divided into four groups.
With the rise of competitions like Pro Kabaddi League, Ghei also spoke about the prospects of having an Indian Premier League-like golf tournament. “I’m very, very sure that seeing the league’s success in clubs, it won’t be too long before we have something like this in pro golf, you know. I mean anything that’s success, that gets people together, that gets the eyeballs together, sooner or later people will try to replicate that. Like you’re saying kabaddi, badminton, all these things. Golf, I think it’s bound to happen very soon”, he added.
Golf as a sport in India saw a sudden rise in popularity after the Tokyo Olympics, when Aditi Ashok finished fourth in the women’s event. Speaking on how the sport can get ‘a real boom’, Ghei said, “I think that’s the first step, becoming an Olympic sport, becoming, allowing professionals in the Asian Games. You know when you are in line for a medal that gets the nation’s attention. You know, you could have all the prize money, but only the golfers follow it. But when you are in line for a medal, it gets everybody’s attention and now the government is paying attention to what’s happening, you know, they are showing a lot of interest. So I’m involved with the Delhi Golf Society, which is the Delhi State Association, and now we’ve got CSR funding to do a junior development program. So we have taken 12 kids. We are getting them out, getting them coaching, doing a lot of good things, the Sports Ministry has given us 25 lakhs to do events. So people are realizing the potential of golf. Juniors, kids are really involved and getting excited. They know there’s a sport which can, you know, give them an opportunity to travel the w orld and change their life.”
“So slowly, slowly things are looking up in the right direction. But we need a huge amount of backing only for the sake that it’s not easy for kids to access a golf course. So that’s why the government has to come in and make driving ranges, public courses accessible. Maybe not an 18-hole course, but just a driving range, nine-hole course. So once that happens it’s easy for people coming from non-golfing backgrounds to access golf. Then you’re going to see the real boom”, Ghei said.