Golf drops a card on debut at National Games

“It was huge,” says Oviya Reddi. Back from Gujarat, Oviya hit the TNGF course without further ado. Proud to have represented Tamil Nadu in golf’s debut in the National Games, she smiles when asked about the expectations riding on her.
(from left) Paramjit Singh (admin support), M Chandru Kini, Kaveri Muthanna, Suguna Saravanan, Prantor Baruah (referees), Ishwar Achanta (tournament director), Gaurav Bajaj (chairman, TRASC IGU) and Krishnan Ganapathy (referee)
(from left) Paramjit Singh (admin support), M Chandru Kini, Kaveri Muthanna, Suguna Saravanan, Prantor Baruah (referees), Ishwar Achanta (tournament director), Gaurav Bajaj (chairman, TRASC IGU) and Krishnan Ganapathy (referee)

CHENNAI: The 36th National Games came to golf. No, this is not a Chuck Norris ‘fact’ or Rajinism. Unlike the 35 other sporting events at the recently concluded National Games held in Gujarat, golf is not one that can be played in a controlled environment. There are far too many variables in the sport, and in that sense, it was a maiden venture for the National Games. Golf you see, does not leave a small footprint, no matter where it is played.

“It was huge,” says Oviya Reddi. Back from Gujarat, Oviya hit the TNGF course without further ado. Proud to have represented Tamil Nadu in golf’s debut in the National Games, she smiles when asked about the expectations riding on her. “It was a very different course and I played quite well. Unfortunately, that was not reflected in my scorecard,” Oviya says ruefully. “I must say that the mixed draw was a huge learning curve for amateurs, since they got to play with the professionals on similar conditions. The greens were not always consistent, but that is also a challenge for the players at this level,” she points out.

So, how challenging was the job of getting golf off ground in the National Games? Ishwar Achanta, who officiated as the tournament director, says that it was a huge challenge. “For the first time, I volunteered for the job, because I wanted to. I was given a free hand in picking my team. The best golf administrators from across the country joined hands,” Achanta says, after the event.

Fairways and greens

The Kensville Golf and Country Club, where the National Games was held, is one of the best clubs, but it is tailored for recreational golfers. When it is a marquee tournament with over 70 players competing, many of whom are professionals, the bar is indeed high . “There was good infrastructure at Kensville, but my team and I had to do a lot to bring it all together,” says the administrator who is himself a scratch player.

Working with the Games officials, the team ironed out minor issues such as garnering transport for the players housed 50 kilometres away, plenty of water etc. It is not only tennis legend Novak Djokovic who likes his bananas. Every golfer will wolf down a couple on both the front and the back while playing. Achanta’s team had to negotiate for that as well. Cutting the greens is always a key factor. “Stimpmeters were used, the greens were cut to 10.4, whereas they should have been 11.5. This resulted in some greens being two-paced and relatively easier for the top players,” says Achanta.

Going bananas

The Nationals was on a huge scale and to stage a sport like golf, where accidents can happen anytime or players finish playing beyond or below satellite television timings, calls for cool heads. “We were lucky to have Major General Bhushan as the golf competition manager. He coordinated with the Gujarat State Committee, the Indian Golf Union (IGU) and various other agencies. It allowed me to focus on organising on ground,” says Achanta. He had done similar duty in the 2014 Asian Games in Korea and his subsequent field report post the golf event has become a reference document for such tournaments.

Ivor Robson replicas

Many of the teen volunteers at the Nationals had never heard of UK’s iconic starter announcer Ivor Robson. However, Achanta’s team wrote them a script, taught them the nuances of the game and trained them to ‘officiate’ as starters announcing each player ahead of their tee, a very professional touch to the Games.

“Mark my words, golf will soon be a mass sport. The Nationals has demystified the myth that golf is elitist,” opines Achanta.

(The writer is the Lady Captain at Cosmo TNGF)

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