I grew up playing golf at the Royal Nepal Golf Club and in those days, golf was about trying to win club level tournaments. The biggest accomplishment was to win the 'Club Championship', the most prestigious event of all, played off scratch (no handicap) in a matchplay format (one against one).
Back then, very rarely did anyone travel abroad to participate in international tournaments. Things changed in 1993 after Surya's international tournament commenced in Kathmandu. After this, Nepal's golf outlook changed dramatically for everyone involved with the sport, from professionals to general golfers, right up to those developing golfing facilities. Just over 20 golfers have made this sport their profession.
Likewise, the number of golfers have multiplied five-fold, hand-in-hand many more golfing facilities are now available.
Spinal Injury Rehabilitations Centre Golf Tournament has certainly helped raise the level of golf in Nepal. We don't have many professional tournaments, so every pro golfer and even weekend golfers, spend the whole year in anticipation. Some wait to participate, some just want to witness it.
Even with such interest and enthusiasm, we have yet to see a Nepali winning. In my opinion, the lack of tournaments for professionals is a main reason that one of our own has not been able to come out tops.
Pro golfers in Nepal have very few opportunities to compete- hardly five tournaments in a year. This is just not enough for a person to consider making golf their profession. Compare this to the Indian professionals who have almost 30 major events a year to play in.
The result is that Indian standard of golf has grown tremendously and their players have been performing better every year. As expected, the Indian pros dominate at the Surya Nepal Masters.
To try and raise the Nepali professional from the position of the underdog to that of the contender, Surya Nepal Pvt. Ltd has sponsored two Nepali professionals to compete in four tournaments in the Indian PGA tour before the Surya Masters. Right now Pashupati Sharma and Sabin Sapkota are pitting their skills against fellow professionals on the golf circuit.
For the rest of the professionals quite a bit of golf will be played in the coming weeks. From 1 to 3 December, the Surya Nepal Western Open will be played at the picturesque Himalayan Golf Course in Pokhara. The following week the Mercantile Classic will be played at the venue of the Surya Nepal Masters, The Gokarna Golf Club.
We are hoping these tournaments will boost local players, help fine tune their game and give them that overall sharper edge to succeed. We may just be fortunate this year and see a local professional win the country's biggest golfing event which will be played from 14-17 December 2005.
Deepak Acharya is a golf instructor and Golf Director at Gokarna Forest Golf Resort & Spa, Kathmandu. [email protected]