A cross the border, the Indians are displaying an overwhelming interest in cricket. This is mainly due to their having some of the best players and one of the best teams in the world. When it comes to a sport growing and developing, excellence in performance and results is vital.
Though golf was first introduced in Nepal in 1917, progress has been rather slow compared to our neighbouring countries, both in terms of the numbers playing and the standards achieved. The reasons behind this slow growth are obvious.
A sport rarely develops on a national level when it is only supported by players and enthusiasts. This is very much the case for golf in Nepal. Achieving a goal of having Nepali professional golfers playing on the world money tours is not going to happen overnight. Players here need to first get more exposure by playing many more local tournaments and getting into that winning mindset before going international.
India provides a perfect example. Their professionals have been performing well on world circuits, and that has fuelled a tremendous increase in public interest for the sport. India's active golfing population has been multiplying (currently estimated at up to 95,000) and simultaneously the number of courses has climbed from 140 to almost 170 in just five years. Hand in hand, prize money on the Indian Professional Golf tour has passed Rs 48 million due to overwhelming support from local businesses.
Put simply, for the sport to have grown this popular, India and other countries have nurtured their own domestic professional tours. Those who have performed reasonably well domestically earn a very comfortable living. This has encouraged more players to join in, and thus standards improved fast.
More domestic tournaments for professionals will help improve skills and competitive abilities, causing standards to reach levels that would allow Nepali golf into the regional and then international arena.
Much has also been talked about golf tourism in the country. If just one Nepali golfer was to perform well internationally, the outlook for Nepal's sports tourism would change vibrantly overnight, and this popular international sport would benefit Nepal's tourism industry and the country.
Even the smallest development requires people who have not only foresight, but also the passion to see a vision through to implementation. A few years ago, Rabindra Man Shrestha, who was marketing director of Gorkha Brewery at the time, had the vision to market Carlsberg beer and improve the standard of Nepali professional golf at the same time. Carlsberg sponsored a professional tournament, thereby, hopefully, setting a trend for other corporations to follow.
Their support for professional sports continues, with the Carlsberg Nepal PGA Championship being played this week (12-15 October) at the Royal Nepal Golf Club, once again giving Nepali professionals a rare four-day opportunity to shine.
This is the kind of support needed from Nepali corporate houses if we want to one day see the likes of a Nepali Jeev Milka Singh, an Arjun Atwal or even a Vijay Singh.
Our Tourism Minister recently attended the International Conference on Sports and Tourism organised by the World Tourism Organisation in Kuala Lumpur. There he stated, "Sport is a one good medium for the overall development of the country."
Of course it is-when something is actually done about it.
Deepak Acharya is a golf instructor and Head Golf Professional at Gokarna Forest Golf Resort & Spa, Kathmandu. [email protected]