Nepali Times
Tee Break
Golf mega month


Even if you don't play golf, you might still want to witness the spectacle of some of the region's finest professional sportsmen, including over a dozen from Nepal, performing at your doorstep. Yes, the country's largest professional sports event, The Surya Nepal Masters, is just around the corner.

The four-day tournament starts Wednesday 13 December and climaxes with the final round on Sunday 17 December at the splendid 18-hole Gokarna Golf Course at Le Meridien Kathmandu, Gokarna Forest Golf Resort & Spa. Preceding the main event will be the much-awaited Pro-Am on Tuesday 12 December, where amateurs play a competitive round with the best golfers in the region.

The Surya Nepal Masters began in 1993. Until 1997 the tournament was by invitation only, after which it became part of the India Professional Golf Association (IPGA) tour. Looking back, I realise that I've been fortunate to take part in every one of these Surya Nepal sponsored events. I played on the first five as an amateur and in the seven that I have played as a professional, the best finished I've achieved is 4th place.

My fellow Nepali professionals and I have been practicing hard in preparation for our bid to come out tops this year. Each time I felt I could win. However, success hasn't come my way.yet. The competition in the Indian tour has become tougher than ever. This year, about 60 players from there will participate here after finishing the TATA Open in Jamshedpur, India.

Defending champ Shiv Kapur is believed to be preoccupied with his Asian Golf Circuit calendar and will be absent next week. Past winners Uttam Singh Mundy, Digvijay Singh and Feroz Ali are expected to participate along with a strong field of contenders from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. From the local side, the challenge will come from, to name a few, Ramesh Nagarkoti, Deepak Thapa Magar, Pashupathi Sharma, Toran Shahi, Deepak Neupane, Sabin Sapkota, Sachin Bhattarai and myself.

This year the total purse has been upped to Rs 1.92 million from last year's Rs 1.68 million. The winner will take home a cheque worth 17 percent (gross) of the total prize money. An exciting preparatory tournament that will give an enviable boost to the local pros is the Mercantile Classic, organised by the Nepal Professional Golfers Association in collaboration with Mercantile Communications. This 54-hole event (which ends Friday 9 December) will provide local pros much needed tournament exposure.

Part of the Surya Nepal Masters was the Surya Nepal Western Open in Pokhara last week, which I unfortunately missed. I had been invited to play a skins game for the La Martinal Cup 2005 in Mauritius. Well, I fared fairly honourably, shooting six birdies (playing the course for the first time), which helped me win seven skins. It was also a great honour to be invited to do a golf clinic for over 100 golfers (including 30 CEOs from Mauritius). Interest in golf over there is enormous. People take the sport very seriously at every level. Mauritius also offers a couple of great golfing facilities and attracts lots of golfers from the west. Seeing how they have developed golf there, I am truly confident we will have the same scenario in Nepal in a few years.

At the Surya Nepal Western Open, two amateurs stunned everyone by beating all the pros. Shiv Ram Shrestha, a regular in the National Amateur Team, took top honours while Surya Sharma came second overall. Ramesh Nagarkoti was the top pro and third overall and took the winner's cheque of Rs 26,000 as amateurs cannot play for money.

Back in the Valley, the Gokarna Golf Course has been tweaked into top shape for the tournament. The big boys from the tour will arrive by Monday, as most of the top players will participate in the corporate Pro-Am event.
So get yourself down to Gokarna Forest from 14-17 December. Now, if you will excuse me, I should start reading back through all the precious tips I've given you over the years in this space. I'm going to need them if I am to reach my goal at the Surya Nepal Masters 2005!

Deepak Acharya is a golf instructor and Golf Director at Gokarna Forest Golf Resort & Spa, Kathmandu.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)