By Abhishek Purohit
New Delhi, Nov 7 (IANS) Indian golf has become stagnant due to the lack of ambition and hunger in youngsters to challenge the world order, veteran Shiv Kapur said.
India marked a new low with no fresh entries in the Asian Tour for the next season.
With Anirban Lahiri, at rank 71, being the only Indian in the top-100 list, the sport that thrived five years back with the successes of Shiv Kapur, S.S.P Chowrasia, Arjun Atwal and Jyoti Randhawa, has not lived up to its potential.
Poor performances off late will also see many top Indians miss out on a berth for the Rio Olympic 2016, with golf making its debut at the Games.
“The problem is that Indian golfers are comfortable playing in the Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI). They are quite content earning Rs.20 lakh a year in PGTI. I have never heard a youngster saying I want to win a Major or play in PGA Tour in the US. They lack ambition and hunger to test themselves against world’s best,” Shiv Kapur told IANS on the sidelines of the Marriott Trophy launch.
“Indian youngsters think there’s no way they can beat giants like Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy or Phil Mickelson. If you don’t put yourself in a competition, you would not know. They are being defeated even before facing the challenge. You can’t be a world champion by playing in India,” the 32-year-old added.
Shiv, who stormed to the Volvo Masters title win in 2005, pointed out that, though, more people are taking up the sport, same can’t be said about growth of golf as a professional sport.
“The sport has not grown in the last three years. Golf peaked like the Indian economy and hasn’t been able to sustain the development. Earlier, we used to have Avantha Masters, Challenge Tour event and three Asian Tour events. Now, we have only two tournaments that can be called highly competitive. Though, we have a lot of corporate tournaments but the sport has not grown professionally,” Shiv, who finished joint 23rd at the US Open 2014, said.
Shiv, who turned professional in 2004, also said that Indian government must help golf shed its status as an elitist sport and ensure that it caters to the masses.
“We need government support to open the sport to the masses. They need to make public golf courses or public driving ranges so that not so well-offs can also play. There is a misconception in our country that golf is an elitist sport. It is an elitist sports because it is not open for public. In Britain or even in US, it is not a sport for the elite,” the 2002 Asian Games champion said.
“There is a lot of untapped potential in India. We are so good in cricket because it is sport for the masses. We can have a golf world champion only if we throw the infrastructure open to public,” he said.
Asked if a professional league in India can have a positive impact on the sport, he said: “I organised the Golf Premier League last year by convincing five Major champions to play in it alongside the PGTI players. But the problem is that there are a lot of red tape or bureaucratic hurdles and these things make it difficult to host events like that.”
Shiv, currently World No.218, is not having a highly successful run. With only one top-10 finish at the Venetian Macau Open, he has slipped down in the world rankings. But, he is optimistic of getting his game back on track.
“I have been consistent. I have got seven top-20 finishes. But, i must say that a win has eluded me. Finishing 23rd in the US Open has been my highlight for this year. I was in contention briefly in the US Open and it gave me a lot of satisfaction. Last year, i played well at the British Open. I have retained my European Tour card which is good,” the city-based golfer said.
“I am working on improving my chipping, putting and pitching. I am confident of finishing this season with a win and also hoping to make a good start to the new season.”
(Abhishek Purohit can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)