Tamil Nadu caddies tournament back in full swing
CHENNAI: A few months ago, I was at the driving range in the Pune Golf Club along with two airmen and a couple of youngsters, when a young caddy joined us for practice. All of 20 years, the young caddy showed the ‘kerchief under the armpit’ drill for the backswing. A short, sharp evening shower interrupted our session but got us all discussing the life of caddies over a cup of tea, thoughtfully provisioned for by a resident golfer.
Amit, the caddy golfer’s friend who is also a caddy, said that the lives of caddies have changed in the last few decades. “Many of us have a natural flair for the game. We are inspired by Chawrasia and the Ali brothers. Golf clubs have always allowed caddies one session in a week but of late, that is getting difficult. One reason is that more guest members and local golfers are playing through the day. The other factor is, of course, COVID-19. The lockdown had many of us wondering if a food delivery agent’s job is more permanent than that of a caddy. You know, quite a few of us can play six under on a good day,” said Amit, an aspiring pro caddy.
Food, water, roof not enough
That was in November 2021. All sectors were affected and many were struggling to cope with the adversities brought in by COVID-19.
Golf clubs across the country tried their best to take care of the basic needs of the caddy families during the lockdown phases. PS Jagdish, The Madras Gymkhana Golf captain, said that Gym golfers collected over Rs 9 lakh and took care of their 52 permanent caddies during lockdown, disbursing Rs 800 per caddy per week or providing provisions to that amount. Likewise, Cosmo TNGF took care of its caddies.
However, Malthus does not enthuse when you are in the sports field. The skills are never forgotten. The sport is in the blood. When the dates of the 11th edition of the G Ramanathan Caddys Professional Tournament of Tamil Nadu were announced, caddies across the state were jubilant as it was back after a two-year break. The purse apart, a good performance here could be the card to enter a PGTI tournament.
‘Oh, you pushed it’
The ‘infallibility’ of the caddies is the stuff of legend. Players are often traumatised by the continuous criticism of their game by their caddies. One such remark by a caddy in Kodaikanal after a poor shot made N Balakrishnan want to let the cat among the pigeons and see how good a game the caddies themselves could play – an impulse that gave shape to this tournament which is in the name of his uncle G Ramanathan. Since the first edition in 2010, the GR Caddys Tournament has been attracting talent from all golf courses in the state. Over the years, it has turned into a platform for caddies to better themselves and knock on the doors of the professional circuit.
This year, 64 player caddies from Madras Gymkhana, Cosmo TNGF as well as golf courses in Coimbatore, Ooty, Wellington, Kodaikanal, OTA and Palmgrove among others participated in the event held at the Gym links on August 9 and 10. The total prize money was Rs 1.29 lakh for the 64 final entrants. Outstation players were given an allowance for travel expenses, while food and other expenses were taken care of by a group of Gym golfers, with the MGC and the GR being major sponsors of the event.
On both days, a few avid golfers turned up to watch and derived some vicarious pleasure when the champion caddies were making mistakes that would have made any player the target of acidic criticism by their caddies. The play on day one was long and deliberate but by day two, it became a triangular contest between Gym caddy Hari and Cosmo TNGF caddies Vasu and Nanda. Hari pulled ahead with some truly inspiring hitting to finish one under and walked away with a prize money of Rs 25,000. This was his third consecutive victory at the caddys pro tournament, having lifted the trophy (rolling) in 2018 and 2019 as well. In the fitness of things, one outstation caddy murmured, “difficult when it is not your home course,” something that will have Balakrishnan chuckling.
(The writer is the Lady Captain at Cosmo TNGF)