Swapan Tung was a caddie and Mohammad Khokon a mid-level player on the Indian golf tour. They lived in slums and earned around Rs 2500 a month and sustained their families on this. That was then.
Now, they are certified coaches associated with the Protouch Golf Academy and have found means to a significantly better living. Samaresh Sardar was a caddie on the courses of the Royal Calcutta Golf Club and Tollygunge Club and Tutul Ali a kid hanging around them, earning the odd buck as a ball boy.
Today, Samaresh is making his mark on the Indian amateur tour and Tutul is the reigning national under-13 champion. They too are products of the academy, which has launched a mission to help the underprivileged through golf.
This academy, headed by pro golfer Indrajit Bhalotia, began in 2004. Of the 10 coaches it has, seven are from that section of Kolkata’s golfing fraternity for whom prosperity was always an arm and a leg away. Thanks to this academy, they are doing far better than what they used to.
Swapan earns nearly Rs 1.5 lakh a year and Khokon makes around Rs 2 lakh. They have built their own houses and are sending their children to school, a place they couldn’t visit when young.
Bhalotia doesn’t like talking too much about this project but he’s made sure that the likes of Swapan and Khokon did coaching courses. Both now hold C Licences from the National Golf Academy of India and are instrumental in teaching trainees at the academy, including upcoming talent Viraj Madappa, who finished fourth in the Asia-Pacific Juniors earlier this year.
Apart from children from society’s more affluent sections, the academy has 25 boys from the nearby slums, who would hang around the city’s major golf courses. It has made sure they go to school and is trying to secure a future for them. “If not champion players, they can pursue a career as coaches or course instructors. The idea is to ensure that they don't become caddies or ball boys,” said Bhalotia.
So Samaresh is rubbing shoulders with top players in the amateur circuit. Apart from winning the national under-13 title, Tutul has notched up a few top-five finishes too. “I want to become a big player. If that doesn't happen I will be a coach at least,” said Samaresh.
The Protouch Golf Academy may not have produced champions as yet but it already is trying to help a few people live better — with dignity and independence.