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Golf stuck in the bunker

other Updated: Jan 09, 2009 23:02 IST
Robin Bose

Realising that global recession is “affecting his account”, Ryder Cup stalwart Paul Casey’s response was, “I’m putting my head in the sand and not worrying about it.”

At a time when slowdown has not spared even Tiger Woods (General Motors terminated its deal with the world No 1), for India to experience the bite of the financial crisis is but natural.

Claiming to have “scaled heights” with new tournaments, a flip side for the Professional Golf Tour of India has been the struggle against slowdown.

In early August, organisers of the AIS Open announced a 50 per cent cut to the “projected” Rs 60 lakh prize money. The slump was here to stay and the blows kept getting bigger.

Meant to be a novelty, the $300,000 Indian Senior Masters, co-sanctioned by the European Seniors Tour, had to be put off due to the promoter’s “financial status” and the unavailability of sponsors.

Next in line for a pink slip was the Indian Ladies Masters. Worth euro 200,000 in its first avatar, this European Tour event took a hit when sponsors Emaar MGF climbed down citing similar reasons.

The Dubai-based Emaar’s dip in fortunes and its troubled ties with MGF, the Indian counterpart, immediately cast a shadow over the $2.5 million Indian Masters, the only men’s European Tour event in India. The whispers reached a crescendo when Golf in Dubai, the promoters, came out expressing regret.

Not just the professional circuit, corporate golf too has not gone unscathed with banks such as ICICI cutting down on events.

Amidst the gloom, sponsors like DLF and BILT are doing their bit and officials continue to stay positive. “Because of one company (Emaar) we can’t say recession has set in. The big spenders are spending. The effects of slowdown, if any, will be felt after March. But I remain confident,” said Champika Sayal, secretary general, Women’s Golf Association of India.

Going with the mood, a Delhi Golf Club official joked, “It is tough but unlike the Spring Valley Country Club in Sharon, Massachusetts, we are not letting a family add a nanny to the membership for $50 a year.