Standing by the junior training area of the 'B' course, 10-year-old Shravan Singh (name changed) looked on wistfully as trainees went through the paces at the Delhi Golf Club's ongoing Junior Training Programme (JTP). The promising youngster was forced out this year by a ruling that debarred children who had been a part of the JTP for three years. “It is illogical, if a child is doing well, denying him is a crime,” said a coach associated with the JTP.
That's not all. “With time, the age limit has been raised from six to eight, which means we're discouraging children from taking up the sport at an early age,” he said.
When contacted, a member of the committee running the JTP had this to say: “The sponsor (Honda) is looking for new talent, besides if a child has not been able to make a mark in three years, chances are he won't make the cut.”
Driven, as insiders claim, by the motive of earning revenue, the DGC has steadily watered down the intensity of its JTP. Barring the initial years, since its inception in 1998, it's been steady downhill. “Earlier, the camp involved six weeks of training (which included nutritional and exhaustive fitness programmes) and a week of competition (the Amit Verma Memorial Tournament),” the coach said.
Down the years, the aspect that has seen an upswing is the cost. From an initial Rs 3,500, the course fee for non-members stands at Rs 7,500 this year, an amount many feel is unjustified given the short duration of the camp.
The committee member admitted to “constraints”. “Last year it was 14 days, this year it is 10. We are trying to reinvent ourselves. Hopefully, things will be better next year.”
A question on the JTP's escalating cost, despite increased sponsorship money from Honda, caught him on the wrong foot.
“We are returning a lot to the children,” he fumbled, “in terms of kit, hydration and use of the swimming pool.” (In the name of a fitness and diet regimen, the students are given a piece of paper listing the dos and don'ts).
Reminded that unlike the past, the trainees didn't have unrestricted access to the 'B' course and swimming pool, the member pleaded helplessness. “The club's membership has doubled and there are government rules which disallow more than 20 people in the pool.”
Aggravating the problem is the interference from people (read the club's ladies section) with little knowledge of the game.
Lamenting the climb-down, the coach said: “From eight hours a day we're down to two hours for a batch (there are four batches of 50 students each with two coaches to a batch). If the duration is short we should be having a structured programme throughout the year, which is not the case.
“Earlier, after 30 days we were producing golfers, now it's all about showcasing the game. It's like telling a child, 'Hi, this is golf, bye, I've taken your money'.”