More than missing the event per se, what I’m most unhappy about is missing an opportunity to catch the original trio—Jeev Milka Singh, Jyoti Randhawa, and Arjun Atwal—in action.
I haven’t gone to watch the Panasonic Open that, hopefully, will wrap up today. The Asian Tour event has already been truncated to 54 holes on account of play being curtailed due to bad visibility. Just in case, players can’t finish up their final rounds today, then the organisers should probably just declare a winner based on count-back: I’d go as far as saying that players wouldn’t mind drawing lots as long as it gets them off the course; most of the overseas players can’t pack their bags quickly enough.
And really, who can blame them: at the time this column was written, the pollution index in Gurugram on Thursday and Friday had breached the ‘severe’ mark. Your columnist decided to eschew the opportunity of catching some action, not only out of concern for the possible adverse effects on his own health, but, also from a practical standpoint. I mean the whole idea is watching these players hit the ball. And considering I can’t see the other side of the road from my house, there seems to be no real point in watching shots disappear into the smog. It’s really quite a tragic situation: for the players, for the Asian Tour, most of all for Panasonic, that gallantly continues to support Indian golf. I thought long and hard about some positives to write about, but unfortunately, there are none. Walking outdoors in Delhi on days like these poses a significant health risk; playing golf is just ridiculous.
More than missing the event per se, what I’m most unhappy about is missing an opportunity to catch the original trio—Jeev Milka Singh, Jyoti Randhawa, and Arjun Atwal—in action. Younger players have no idea what watching these three trailblazers make a name for themselves on the world stage when playing pro golf for a living was considered a pipe-dream, meant for us. Appropriately, it’s one of the rising stars on the scene—Khalin Joshi—who is defending his title at the Panasonic Open this year. “The win is still very fresh on my mind. I putted and drove the ball really well that week. There are positive signs now as I’m getting those similar feelings like last year. I just got to just block out unnecessary thoughts like I’m the defending champion and just play my own game,” Khalin mused on the eve of the event.
As things stand now, the second round is underway on Saturday; Thai golfer Itthipat Buranatanyarat who phenomenal eight-under-64 is the leader. Amongst the Indian squad, hopes are pinned on veteran Shiv Kapur who’s currently lying three shots adrift after shooting a five-under 67. Kapur had a resurgence last week and very nearly won the Thailand Open, eventually losing in a playoff. Also in the mix is India’s highest-ranked golfer, Shubhankar Sharma who’s been quietly getting it back together: Sharma got his best finish on the European Tour this season, a tied-seventh place at the Turkish Open, earlier this month.
The Classic Golf & Country Club is hosting the Panasonic Open for the first time after the event was moved from the Delhi Golf Club—the venue for last eight editions. The layout is the centrepiece for golf in national capital region that has a preponderance of courses—more than any other city in the country. It’s unfortunate that the occasion should be blighted by the smog conditions which have consistently stolen the headlines this year. The layout typifies why people like your columnist choose to live here: to be able to play different world-class courses. This will sound inscrutable to non-golfers but that’s how important golf is to those who play the game; it plays a central role in how we judge the quality of our lives.
This year I’ve turned into a cynic when it comes to golf in Delhi. All we had was the winter months that provided a welcome respite from the debilitating summer heat; in those months it would be hard to get a tee-off time without an inordinate wait at the first tee, because everyone wanted to get out and play. Because the crisp breeze mingled with the winter sun, and felt so good that it didn’t matter if your game was going to pieces. These were the days golfers in the city lived for.
If this sounds like a eulogy, then perhaps it is. Writing about it, clarifies to me, in my own mind, just how miserable I feel about how things have come to such a pass. If we can’t breathe in a city, then how can we play golf here? On a side note, it’s the first time I’ve realised that there are degrees of crazy when it comes to golfers. Sample this note I received from someone I play with every now and then, who I’ll refrain from naming here. “Bud, you’re not going to believe how empty the course is! On a weekend that too! I’m going to play 36 holes. Join me in the afternoon?” The note was accompanied by an image of him, mask et al, standing on a raised tee, that for someone who doesn’t know the course, appears to be the brink of a foggy precipice.
That’s too close to the edge bud. I think I’ll just take a flight to Bengaluru and play at KGA this week. Maybe rent a place while I’m there. Actually, I think I’ll just stay there all winter. See you next year.
A golfer, Meraj Shah also writes about the game