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Big-time golf off menu in first quarter

From a loaded look, the first quarter of the Professional Golf Tour of India's (PGTI) international calendar bears a Spartan appearance. On offer were events like the tri-sanctioned Avantha Masters (February 11-14) and joint-sanctioned Nimbus Pro-Am Championship (February 18-21) and SAIL Open (March 18-21), but now all that aficionados will savour is the maiden edition of the European Tour's $2.1 million Avantha Masters at the DLF Golf & Country Club.

other Updated: Jan 20, 2010 23:26 IST
Robin Bose

From a loaded look, the first quarter of the Professional Golf Tour of India's (PGTI) international calendar bears a Spartan appearance. On offer were events like the tri-sanctioned Avantha Masters (February 11-14) and joint-sanctioned Nimbus Pro-Am Championship (February 18-21) and SAIL Open (March 18-21), but now all that aficionados will savour is the maiden edition of the European Tour's $2.1 million Avantha Masters at the DLF Golf & Country Club.

The lean look is due to factors beyond the PGTI's control. While Nimbus Pro-Am has been put off (the Asian Tour calendar still has it though) to the latter half of the year, SAIL Open, the other Asian Tour event, may have died a natural death.

“We received a mail from the Asian Tour informing us that Nimbus had been postponed as the sponsor wanted it shifted to the second half,” a top Indian pro told Hindustan Times.

Based on a unique format, wherein two courses were to be engaged, it is unclear if the $500,000 event will unfold at the Delhi Golf Club and Jaypee Greens when fresh dates are announced. “The mail mentioned nothing about the venues. We'll have to wait and see,” the pro said.

After fulfilling a two-year commitment, sponsor Steel Authority of India (SAIL) is unwilling to renew its association with the “elitist sport”. Instead, the public sector undertaking has chosen to back hockey, which is “closer to heart”.

Amandeep Johl, the promoter, said: “Ever since the company decided to co-sponsor the FIH World Cup, it has been difficult. Besides, being a national sport, hockey is closer to the company's heart as it runs several academies.

“The fact that we have been able to fulfill our two-year

commitment is an achievement as it is extremely difficult to sell golf in India, more so in a company with very little golfing culture.”

Asked why the PGTI had blocked dates for the event when its first quarter schedule was announced earlier this month, Johl pleaded ignorance.

“I don't move a file till there is a yes. We never gave dates to the PGTI nor was any communication exchanged.” Since then, the PGTI has removed SAIL Open from the calendar, adding credence to talk that the event is a non-starter.

Amid the pessimism, Johl stays hopeful.

“We are hoping our chairman (S.K. Roongta) has a change of heart. The year has just started and if things move,

something can still worked out,” he said.