CHENNAI: Every time my friends up North or abroad ask me to explain the Dravidian ideology as it is complex for them to grasp, I tell them that my understanding is simple. It is based on the simple belief that everyone deserves an equal chance in every sphere of life and therefore, you create an environment of a level-playing field wherever you can. Thereafter, it is up to the individual to pursue, persevere and prosper. This Dravidian spirit was on full display at PGTI’s four-day Chennai Open Golf Championship held at Cosmo TNGF earlier this week.
While the competition was a close one, with the leaderboard constantly changing, local golfers and followers of the game tracked Sandeep Syal and S Prashanth. The players are two ends of the social spectrum. The Syal family once owned the historic Rita ice cream firm, while Prashanth’s father Sridhar is a senior caddy known to generously hand out tips to players for free. Players tap Sandeep to check their golf clubs or ask for inputs on their game while playing with him or when he is spotted at the driving range. The two therefore had a dedicated group of well-wishers at this PGTI edition, from among players and caddies alike. Charles Ros and Arul, the other caddies in the fray, missed out on making the cut on day two, but were on the course, cheering the players.
On day two, when Sandeep was sitting for an eagle on Hole 18, caddies, whose information network can rival a drone capture, were seated on plastic chairs, wishing him success with their collective energy, along with golf playing members. Similarly, a group of players and caddies followed Prashanth every step of the way.
Growing up in the caddy village, Prashanth knows every inch of the course, every whiff of wind. But, who knows what goes on in his mind before a marquee event like this? Probably KN Kaushik, the gentleman golfer who passed away a few months ago. He used to challenge Prashanth by giving him strokes while the two played together. Minutes before his tee off on day one, Prashanth spent a few moments in Kaushik’s buggy (donated to TNGF by Kaushik’s family) in deep meditation. A number of others have also helped Prashanth in several ways to bridge the socio-economic divide. A few lady golfers ensured he had access to spoken English lessons, to help him hold his own among other golfers. When Sandeep missed an eagle or landed his drive in the roughs, caddies trailing him punched the air in total empathy. You see, for golfers, it is personal.
And yes, it gets more Dravidian than this. At the end of play on day three, N Thangaraja, the Sri Lankan player topping the leaderboard, held a golf clinic at TNGF’s range, courtesy PGTI. It was a humbling moment for many golfers when he bent down, picked up a ball and placed it for a recreational player to hit. And repeated it again and again while fine-tuning grip, address of the ball, etc. When I duffed an iron shot and was about to step away, he called me back and tutored me until I played the shot correctly. “Never walk away after duffing a shot,” he advised us. When another player wanted to know how to read the putting green, he replied in a practical, down-to-earth manner.
However, do you know when he walked into the hearts of everyone? When he wanted to speak in Tamil. When a barrage of questions was thrown at him at the golf clinic, he first asked, “Can I reply in Tamil?” Every caddy and golf boy there wanted to give him the Gary Kirsten treatment (2011, when India won the Cricket World Cup). His parting shot? “This course and you people make me feel at home,” he said with his trademark wide grin.
(The writer is the Lady Captain at Cosmo TNGF)