Unsung Heroes: Braving virus, Surjit & co maintain the greens at Chandigarh Golf Club on daily basis
In the mid eighties, Surjit Singh, then 15, visited Chandigarh Golf Course in search of work and the only job he could fit into to earn money was to be a daily wager. Over the years, without any formal education and just on the basis of sheer experience and hard work, he rose to a rank of assistant course manager. His area of work is to oversee the maintenance of the greens and fairways of the country’s busiest golf course spread at 132 acres. With the countrywide lockdown because of the fear of COVID-19 spread, all the sporting activities were stopped and all the sports facilities have been closed, but even at this time of crisis the unsung heroes of golf, Surjit & co, are on the job, so that as and when things get normalize, course will be ready to felicitate the regions’ top golfers, including some of the country’s top names Jeev Milkha Singh, Shubhankar Sharma and Ajeetesh Sandhu.
Five of the course maintenance staff is staying inside the premises of the golf course, and as usual their day starts at 5am.
“We cannot leave the course, especially the greens, unattended even for a day and that too at the time of the March-April, when the pace of the growth is at the peak. All the 18 greens need to be dressed properly on the daily basis, otherwise if left unattended even for couple of days, the runners (stem) of the grass will start coming and this will create a hindrance on the movement of the ball. We have to maintain the greens in such a way that every day, every time, there should be prefect rolling of the ball. Chandigarh Golf Course has a name in the country and to live up the reputation, we have to maintain the course at its best,” says Surjit, 50, whose family stays in nearby Bhagwanpur area. “Because of the fear of virus (referring to Coronavirus) spread, it’s not advisable to daily commute from our houses to the golf course. Otherwise, we will be unnecessary exposing ourselves and subsequently our family to the outer world. So, we decided to stay within the premises of the club. The club management has provided us ration and we have a kitchen. We are taking care of all the precautions, including using sanitizers and mask,” adds Surjit.
The Chandigarh Golf Club has a team of over 70 staff to look after the course, but currently only the minimum required work has been carried out on daily basis.
The watering of the entire course is computerized. Surjit and his team are focusing mainly on greens and fairways.
“Ours is one of the busiest courses of the world. We were having a record breaking footfall of the golfers on the daily basis. Now, as the club is closed, it’s a breather for the greens and we can focus on maintaining and repairing the greens, wherever it’s required,” says Sandeep Singh Sandhu (Bobby), president of the Chandigarh Golf Club. “The time frame for which the course remains unattended, it would require double of the time to get back into the shape. The course maintenance is quite a technical work and Surjit and his team are doing a commendable job in maintaining the course,” adds Sandhu.
Apart from giving salaries to their entire work force during the time of the lockdown, the club is also taking care of all the caddies registered with them. Apart from ration, the management is giving Rs 200 daily to the caddies and the first installment of payment for 10 days has already been made. “They all are part of the golf fraternity and it’s the responsibility of the club to take care of them. Very shortly we will be releasing the second installment of the caddies’ payment,” said Sandhu.