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Oil’s well with business of golf

other Updated: Jan 23, 2009 23:46 IST
Robin Bose

Ask Jeev Milkha Singh and Jyoti Randhawa and they'd instantly fall in line with Tiger Woods' words, "What more can you ask for --- playing golf for a living and getting paid for doing what you love."

The last couple of years may have witnessed a windfall, but the key point is that when the two started out to chart their course in a land besotted with cricket, the going was far from smooth. Sustaining hope in those difficult years was the patronage extended by oil companies.

A case in point is the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC). The company, which forayed into golf in 1990, picked up Jeev when he was making waves on the amateur circuit. Apart from offering scholarships to budding golfers, it extends financial support for coaching and facilitates the participation of executive golfers (recruited under the sports quota) in national and international tournaments.

The sops, however, depend on market forces. This Fortune 500 major not only gives out golf sets to its players every three years, it is the only one to enlist professional golfers.

Also taking the lead is Oil India Limited. Top amateur Manav Das, who has been with the company since 2001, was quick to list the positives. "The sponsorship takes the pressure off parents and from there on, it depends on form. If a player features amongst the top-10, he is assured of at least one overseas tournament a year, the cost of which is borne jointly by the company and the Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB)."

The benefits do not end there. The PSPB tourney, which features the country's cream, not only provides better exposure but also fosters team spirit. "Apart from taking care of caddy and tournament fees (each company has its rules), there is a fixed remuneration and the freedom to practice without worrying about office," said Manav.

Gagan Verma, India's No 1 amateur, differed. "They promote you but you can't take them for a ride," said the Indian Oil Corporation player.

But does the support come with a tag? "You are expected to be an ambassador but that's a small price, if you want to term it so, compared to the benefits," said Manav.