Forging fellowships, silver bands in South’s own Ryder Cup

At one level, it is an intensely personal sport, where you are hitting a stationary ball and succeeding, not with the might of your swing but by brining physics into play.
The men’s singles competition at the Inter-Club Tournament
The men’s singles competition at the Inter-Club Tournament

CHENNAI: GOLF is a peculiar sport. In fact, I would go so far as to say it suffers from split personality. At one level, it is an intensely personal sport, where you are hitting a stationary ball and succeeding, not with the might of your swing but by brining physics into play.

At another level, it is a sport based on bonhomie and fellowship. You need at least three good women or men to level off and challenge yourself to do better. In fact, it is like a long-term relationship, which is why you will find that in most clubs, golfers have their own four balls, or multiple groups of four balls playing with one another and arguing.

Like any relationship, there are rough days – invoking rules and sub-clauses to make sure the other sweats for every win on every hole, but when the last hole is finished, all is forgotten and players walk together and not away from each other.

This camaraderie was evident on the Gymkhana golf links last week, at the Madras Gymkhana Club (MGC) vs Bangalore Golf Club (BGC) Inter-Club Tournament. At stake for the MGC was retaining the Cup, while the BGC wanted to wrest it in its away match. The winner gets to add a silver band to the Cup, a matter of honour and pride.

India’s own ‘Ryder Cup’

The MGC vs BGC is the world’s longest-running inter-club tournament (last week was the 145th edition, and that is twice the reign of Queen Elizabeth II). Compared to this, the much celebrated Ryder Cup, between the USA and Europe, is about five decades younger.

This engagement has spanned over seven generations of golfers in these two vintage clubs and has seen contests and rivalries as close and fierce as any other in any sport. “Playing with the MGC is a big thing for us. There is both rivalry and keen kinship,” said the players from Bengaluru.

In the event played annually and with the venue alternating between the two courses, the home team has had an advantage over the years. Comprising a ‘Main event’ and a ‘Seniors’ event”, the tournament is played over two days with Foursome matches on day one and Singles on day two, totalling 18 matches in all.

“Bangalore have won more away events than us,” admitted PS Jagdish, Captain of the MGC. ”It is easy to see that its (BGC’s) trophy has grown more bands than ours.” Jagdish had alerted the MGC team that to regain the Cup, the home team needed at least 9.5 points.

After day one, the visitor was leading 3.5 to 2.5 against the home team, despite the fact that it conceded one match due to a player falling ill suddenly. The MGCans were muttering about youngsters in the other team swinging better and hitting longer.

Anand Srinivasan, a BGC regular for decades, fired the first salvo, exulting, “In my 28 years of playing inter-club, the MGC has hammered us 18 times. It feels good, MGC’s big guns lost.” He added, “We have beaten the MGC twice on its home ground, whereas we have lost in Bengaluru only once.” The MGCans retorted calmly, saying, “The foursome matches did not go well for us, some pairings did not work well, but that is golf. Watch out tomorrow (last Sunday), it will be a different day.”

It was not an idle boast. While a few singles matches took off on a tentative note, the MGCans were pulling ahead, leaving the BGCans sweating, literally from the sultry morning, and from the focused play by the Main players. Warts and all, the MGC comfortably won on home turf by a margin of 6 points and was happy to add another layer of silver to the Cup.

The MGC Seniors had it easier as they were leading from start to finish to win by a margin of 12 points. With the competition over, the fellowship and bonhomie, which is so much a part of the ethos of this historic event, took over – age no bar.

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