Often, stereotypes serve to castigate some regions of our country. The north-east, noted for insurgency over the years, is one such example. However, the unfair convention seems to be changing and interestingly, it is hitching a ride on the back of sports.
Golf, introduced here in the late 19th century is slowly proving to be the vehicle of much-needed reform, and with last week's Chief Minister's Cup, a handicap tournament, going national in its 26th edition at the 112-year-old Shillong Golf Club, optimism is in the air.
A total of 111 local amateurs and 92 outstation golfers played on the 18-hole natural course over the weekend and excitement was rife at the prospect of wielding clubs in the Khasi Hills.
"It was more challenging then I expected it to be. Although I shot five birdies, the Shillong course was very different to what I'm used to. However, as breathtaking as the scenery is, the greens and fairways do need improvement," said tournament winner, Anirban Nath, from Kolkata who won the tournament with 37 stableford points.
With a dearth of corporate sponsors, those behind organising the tournament are hopeful that the golfers' experience will initiate greater participation in the upkeep of the course which has picked up the moniker 'Gleneagles of the East' due to its striking similarity to the link-courses of Scotland. Incidentally, it is also the wettest course in the world.
"Maintaining a course like this, a natural one which is God’s gift to any golfer, is expensive. The grass is poor and bringing in other varieties which suit the climate is expensive. Already, R3 crore have been spent on fencing and the greens will be upgraded soon," said A.L. Hek, president of the Shillong Golfers Association.
Meghalaya is aiming to attract top-tier tourists through the sport and its USP lies not just in the hill-station charm which Shillong is renowned for, but also in providing access to affordable golf.
"It's R4,200 for a year's membership while non-members need to pay just R250 as green fee. This is how we are hoping investors will look at the course as a business opportunity,” said Charles Pyngrope, an avid golfer and speaker of the Meghalaya Assembly.
That Shillong, with its picturesque terrain and undulating greens, was a worthy host to two days of sterling golf wasn’t surprising. Not only the course, the mountains too seemed to come to life.