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Top-line golf back in Kolkata after long

The silver lining for golf aficionados in Kolkata is that the Royal Calcutta Golf Club will host a quality field after considerable time, reports Robin Bose.
By Robin Bose | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUN 13, 2008 11:32 PM IST

The intent behind staging the PGTI Players' Championship may be under close scrutiny but the silver lining for golf aficionados in Kolkata is the Royal Calcutta Golf Club will host a quality field after considerable time.

Not since the Indian Open shifted base to the Delhi Golf Club towards the close of the last decade, has the RCGC staged a tournament of some standing. In this direction, the June 18-21 contest with a prizemoney of Rs 30 lakh could go some way towards remedying the yearning of this once-upon-a-time hub.

Compared to the first leg in Chandigarh, the field at the RCGC is definitely more impressive with Ajai Gupta, Tour Commissioner, Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) confirming names like S.S.P. Chowrasia, Gaurav Ghei, Rahil Gangjee, Digvijay Singh, Arjun Singh and Indrajit Bhalotia in a field that also contains players from Nepal and Sri Lanka.

A discordant note though is the feeling in some quarters that the Players' Championship is an act of desperation on the PGTI's part to subdue the militant mood prevalent among players affected by the advent of big-money tournaments.

"The current emphasis has led to the drying up of smaller events thus affecting the earnings of the second-rung players. The resentment led to clouds of rebellion gathering over the power centres in Delhi and Chandigarh," said a source at the RCGC.

With the rumour mills working overtime, a version doing the rounds was that the PGTI had even procured a loan to fund the Championship. "Leave alone 30 lakh, no sponsor in Kolkata would be willing to spare even 20 lakh. The PGTI is sponsoring it to fill in the gaps," the source added.

Gupta was quick to pooh-pooh such talk. "Ours is a player-run body and everything is done with their consent. We have earned money from TV contracts and this is a way of giving it back to the players.

The event is similar to the Players' Championship in the US and after Kolkata, we have Pune lined up in September followed possibly by Coimbatore. All this talk of being under pressure is unfounded. It is not PGTI vs players."

Shooting down claims on the slide in player earnings, the Tour Commissioner pointed to the burgeoning worth of the domestic tour that "can accommodate no more than 25 events in view of the packed

calendar".

Though Gupta claimed the greens at the RCGC were in "perfect shape" and "checks and balances" were in place in view of the monsoon's arrival, apprehensions are being expressed on the course's preparedness and the unfriendly weather.

The event was initially slated for a late July start but Gupta said it was brought forward as the "rains are not that heavy in June". "As far as the complaints about humidity go, as professionals the players are equipped to handle it," he retorted.

Amidst the "acrimony" and non-believers predicting a slowdown of the economy hitting disciplines like golf, lies hope. Having acquired a toehold, the RCGC is out to live up to its reputation of being a "golf-promotional friendly venue" and has offered the course for free, thus saving the PGTI some Rs 6-7 lakh.

A successful staging will only strengthen the resolve to breathe life into the "West Bengal Masters" that is still struggling to emerge from the drawing board.

An optimistic Gupta admitted the Players' Championship would indeed be a "boost". "If we are able to hold the Masters in December, it would be our way of giving something back to this very old centre of excellence," he said.

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