In 2008, the country woke up to the existence of a top level inter-city sporting league through cricket's Indian Premier League (IPL). Almost four years later, the inter-city team-based format has been brought to the most individualistic of sports - golf. While the Rajasthan Royals stunned everyone by winning IPL I, something similar happened at the Karnataka Golf Association on Saturday.
With the teams of Jeev Milkha Singh and Jyoti Randhawa nowhere in contention, it was up to Anirban Lahiri to win it for the home side against a team that hardly anyone took serious note of. But in the end, the boys from Bangalore bowed to the team from Ahmedabad that comprised of a Sri Lankan and an in-form pair from the National Capital Region (NCR).
Like Rajasthan, who have been billed, during their successive Ranji Trophy triumphs, of being a team of outsiders, the fact that Ahmedabad did not consist of even a single local pro does stand out. Then again, they weren't the only team - in fact, such is the excess of pros from the NCR and a dearth of them from the West and - barring Bangalore - South, three of the 10 teams did not boast of a single local player, whereas eight had at least one player from Delhi and thereabouts!
For the game to grow, golfers need to emerge from all parts. If tournaments such as these are moved to different venues each year, will the sport get popularised? "Not necessarily," felt Jeev. "If the South wakes up, so will the North." Delhi's Shiv Kapur is of the view that "it should stay in Bangalore for two-three years and establish itself before moving elsewhere." Others don't agree. "It has to move to all corners of the country," said Lucknow's Sanjay Kumar, while Vikrant Chopra and Vinod Kumar, both NCR-based golfers of the winning Ahmedabad team, felt Delhi is the ideal venue for next year.
But while moving it around will help, "firstly, public golf courses have to be made in every big city," said SSP Chowrasia, who represented Chennai. "You have to give the lower and middle classes at least a chance to watch and perhaps play the sport."
Local lad Lahiri talked about the game's needs - of superstars of Jeev's stature, and for the government to step up and step in. "Now that golf's an Olympic sport, there's no reason not to," he said. "Doesn't have to be financial - just make it an official school or college sport, so that institutions can have their own golf teams."
(The writer's trip was sponsored by RN Golf Management)