What makes golf one of the most addictive sports ever?
Looking at the ITC Gardenia’s Mysore Hall, filled to the brim with golf enthusiasts having the time of their lives last week, it occurred to me that few other sports offer such bonhomie and bonding. It was an After Hours golf party, with the British Open playing on giant screens everywhere, and in the festive atmosphere complete with Champagne and whisky, people watched Rory McIlroy surge ahead of his competitors on his way to winning the coveted Claret Jug.
Rishi Narain, pro golf event organiser, was in town for the evening, and there was no better person to ask. From his start in golf as a 10-year old, to his Asian Games gold medal and stint as national golf coach, Narain has come a full circle, now organizing golf-centric events for companies.
“The main aspect of golf is the social aspect,” he said, and the hall brimful with golf enthusiasts certainly underlined that. “The bond among golfers is unlike that in other sports.” But, he warned. “It’s a tough sport. Players get beaten up emotionally and mentally – that too makes for instant bonding with other golfers.” Plus, there’s the feeling of wide open space, greenery and the outdoors – add good company to the mix and no wonder the sport’s popularity soars.
There’s also a definite co-relation between golf, strategising and mental acuity – which is why some of the biggest successes in the corporate world have been excellent golfers too, he adds. “Look at Jack Welch and Scott McNealy, both champion golfers. Unlike other sports, you play against yourself. The element of self-mastery makes it addictive.”
India has outperformed other Asian countries in golf, barring Japan and Korea. “India is punching far above its weight, all things considered. Golf is a cerebral game, so Indians naturally do well.” Adding to the euphoria, is the good news from Bangalore. Our Anirban Lahiri is the highest ranked Indian professional in the world at 81, and that, Narain says, “is not a joke” considering Indian facilities and coaching are just now taking an upswing, compared to established countries. “Until May 2014, Lahiri has already won `3.2 crore in prize money alone.” Delhi still leads the country, but Narain predicts that Bangalore will soon take over the top spot in the country. “Look at the weather! You can play golf the year around, plus new courses and coaching facilities are coming up.”
We resume a long-standing debate on the greatest golfer in the world. Narain has always favoured Jack Nicklaus, as his achievements outrank Tiger Woods even today, with 18 Masters to his name compared to Tiger’s current 14. “But things are so much harder now. Maybe it’s time for a re-think,” he laughs, heading back to the cheering golfers playing virtual golf; chipping, putting and winning nifty prizes.
Ruma Singh presents a column on observations, insights and what’s buzzing in the city.