Team Telangana at the South Zone Juniors Golf Tournament.
Team Telangana at the South Zone Juniors Golf Tournament.

Telangana’s state-trained junior golfers walk off with honours

Golf is certainly not a sport that a child from the marginalised section would aspire to play.

CHENNAI: The sports template for a child in our country is fairly straightforward. Cricket is the first choice, not only because it is the most popular but also because it is easily accessible. You can play it anywhere, on any street or stretch of land. And anyway, every kid aspires to become MS Dhoni.

Athletics and football are always there as the equipment requirements are minimal, at least at the early stages.

Those hailing from financially sound families have more options in tennis and now badminton.

Golf, as a sport, is known only to those living around golf courses or those hailing from golfing families. It does not fit into the category of popular sports. And, there are no golfing legends hailing from India to inspire the youngsters towards the sport.

Our system emphasises academics and not sports – let alone golf. Golf is certainly not a sport that a child from the marginalised section would aspire to play.

Which is why, the arrival of 11 young girls and boys from the Telangana Social Welfare Residential Education Institutions Society (TSWREIS), to take part in the South Zone Juniors Golf Tournament in Chennai created a huge buzz.

South Zone Juniors Tournament

The tournament, played on two days each at the TNGF course and the Madras Gymkhana Golf Annexe and held between September 6 and 9, had attracted 74 participants from all over, including one Tamilian from Kuala Lumpur. The TSWREIS students, all clad in matching attire, owned the courses with their attitude.

The 15-year-old H Pragati, tells me that RS Praveen Kumar, who, having started TSWREIS, decided to introduce golf since he never got a chance to play the sport in his growing up years. Out of 5,000 aspirants, 32 got selected to play golf and 11 of them made it to the juniors tournament. It is laudable that the local government sustained them for a full year to prepare and another year on the tour.

Looking back, they said that they found it difficult, but with their coach Bhaskar Immanuel’s constant prodding and encouragement, the youngsters are now wanting to see how far golf will take them in life. The fact that one amongst them, 12-year-old Anusha, got a hole-in-one on the par 3, Hole 7 at the Zion Hills Golf course has been a huge motivator for them. And, oh, did I forget to mention that theirs is a three-hole course. “All par 3s.” They go over the same three holes six times, but that did not come in the way of them acing the par 4s and par 5s in the two courses in the city or elsewhere.

Pars, play-offs and ‘Hide & Seek’

In fact, you could not miss the “I can do it” confidence in each of the budding golfers – aged 6 to 17 – who contested in various categories. There are 12 tournaments across South India for the juniors and those playing minimum 10 under get into the merit list and become eligible to play the Nationals. Meanwhile, an Ability Test round was held for amateur players to qualify for the 2023 Nationals. On the last day, one match went into a classic play-off and the 8-year-old Anushree Kesavan, from Coimbatore, settled all arguments by sinking a 16-ft birdie putt. So, a lot of serious golf, the presence of concerned parents and the innocent display of transparent emotions ruled the city’s courses.

Watching these budding golfers was an eye-opener. The child in them came to the fore often – from playing ‘Hide & Seek’ after finishing the round and handing in their cards, trying to take the driver’s seat in the parked buggies, to exploring areas off the fairway, they enjoyed themselves at all times.

Jayanan Satagopal, who ran the event, was the master of all trades, from totalling the scores to minding the young, who often disregarded his shout for silence, off the course. The only negative from this tournament? There was not a single entry from Chennai.

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