For the first time in 16 years, top Indian pros will be missing from the Surya Nepal Masters. Reason: The Professional Golf Tour of India’s (PGTI) “spiteful ways” with the fledgling Nepal Professional Golfers Association (NPGA).
The flagship tournament, carrying a purse of Nepali Rs 30 lakh (Rs 18.75 lakh in Indian currency) has been a happy hunting ground for Indians (see box), but this year the Gokarna Golf Forest Resort & Spa, the venue of the April 19-24 event, will be devoid of its main attraction.
Sources told HT that it is a case of the PGTI “acting out of spite” after the NPGA rejected its “informal offer” to joint-sanction the event.
Stung by the rebuff, the PGTI retaliated by enforcing a blanket ban. A mail sent on March 15 directed the players to stay away from the event. It states: “PGTI members are not allowed to participate unless it is co-sanctioned by the PGTI”.
The discontent among the Indian pros is apparent and despite requests for a rethink, the PGTI stands firm. Last year, 11 of the top-20 from the PGTI’s Order of Merit had competed in Nepal. But more than the top pros, it’s the lesser-known Indian players and the Tour’s Nepalese members like Shiva Ram Shrestha and Toran Bikram Shahi who will take a severe hit.
Despite repeated attempts, PGTI officials were not available for comment.
Speaking from Kathmandu, Deepak Acharya, secretary, NPGA, said, “The best Indian golfers have added great value to the tournament over the years and it will be unfortunate if they are forced to stay out this year.”
The PGTI’s stand defies logic. In 2007, it had clarified, “While we maintain that it is not a part of the PGTI, the PGTI has not stopped any of its players from playing the Surya Nepal Masters. In fact, the PGTI has made it clear that since it is an international event, no player would be penalised for playing the event.”
The PGTI prides itself as “a body by the players and for the players”, and one of its objectives is “to promote and arrange for the conduct of professional golf in India and its neighbouring countries”.
It seems, with time, the goal has acquired a different hue.