Unlike the Asian Games and the Olympics, the SAF Games has not yet included golf as an event. But the SAARC Golf Championship has been held since 1999 providing a platform for South Asian golf governing bodies and golfers to get together, strengthen mutual relationships and compete at the highest regional levels.
This year is the ninth edition of this prestigious event, which is being held from 31 October-3 November in Nepal for the first time. It is being played at the Gleneagles designed Le Meridien Kathmandu Gokarna Forest Golf Resort & Spa.
Unlike past years, the Surya Nepal 9th SAARC Golf Championship is going to witness the full strength of players from each golf-playing SAARC country for this annual championship. Top amateurs from India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal will have full five member teams (3 men and 2 ladies). The Maldives does not have any golf courses nor a golf team, so their abstention from the event is understandable.
The event used to be a 'Men Only' affair, but that changed in Lahore in 1994. This year the Nepali men's team will comprise of veteran Tashi Ghale and two youngsters, Rupak Acharya and Rabi Khadka. Kesang Lama and Shastika Shrestha will spearhead the ladies team.
Nepal's team was selected after 54 holes of a qualifying tournament held in the beginning of October. Since then these golfers have been put under intense training. Rabi Khadka and Rupak Acharya have been turning in great low scores, while Kesang Lama on the women's team, through single minded dedication, is showing strong promise.
In past years, Nepal's performance at the SAARC Golf championships have fallen short of the mark. This year however, they are determined to take advantage of the home venue and bring the golden medal home.
"I am very confident about my game, have the feel for putting and I'm playing well" said team member Rupak Acharya. Kesang Lama commented: "A while back I was not confident enough with my short game, but now I have improved tremendously and I'm much happier with my game."
Deepak Acharya is a golf instructor and golf director at Gokarna Forest Golf Resort & Spa, Kathmandu.
Mohammad Zamal Hossain Mollah Mohammad Shahid Khan
Mohammad Sakhwat Hossain Shohel Mrs Fatima Matiur
Mrs Luna Sarker
N U G De Silva
Rabindra Man Shrestha
Muhammad Safdar Khan
Miss Mahreen Raheel