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A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A TOURNAMENT DIRECTOR

I always tell my staff that 90 per cent of the success of a golf tournament is the course marking. Making sure that happens is a lot of hard work! As a tournament director, I’m in charge of making sure that everyone plays under equitable conditions. So I set up the golf course for the players and mark the course the way I want it to be played. Golf is a complicated game as far as rulings are concerned. If a golf course is not marked well, then you have trouble.

Normally we come in three days before the event starts, get the whole course marked, get yardages (the various distances the players play right from the tee or the first or second shot) for the players done. I work very closely with Tim Denham, the golf course superintendent.

Then we make sure there’s not too much water on the fairway or too less. The conditioning of the course, pin placement, time sheet, referee, ruling… all this is part of the job. We are usually here an hour-and-a-half before the tournament starts. The McLeod Russel Tour Championship should start off by 7.30am, so we’ll be here at 6am to make sure things are okay. In the morning, we make sure there’s no dew on the grass and that the grass is cut fine.

Fortunately, the course has been shut down so it’s very easy for me. Otherwise if members play, it’s difficult. We set up the course such that it’s neither too easy for the player nor too difficult. The pace of play — the amount of time a player takes to play a shot — is a continuous issue on any golf course. We usually want to finish a game in four-and-a-half hours. But then on the course you can lose balls… a lot of rulings can come in… so a game can get delayed. Technically, you’re allowed 50 seconds and then 40 seconds for the second player to play each shot. But if it goes on for more than a minute, then it gets irritating. That’s where we step in to make sure everyone’s on track.

Sampath Chari, tournament director, PGTI

BEHIND THE SCENES

Like everything else in life, a lot happens behind the scenes. Right from the collateral that is printed to the decor that is put up, the distribution of gifts, trophies won, the cuisine that is savoured to the actual entertainment — everything has to have added value so that it becomes an experience… a

quality 360-degree product. We started planning for the McLeod Russel Tour Championship a year ago. You might think a tournament is say eight months away but time flies. One of the biggest things is to visualise the event as a guest and being a player has helped. From the time a player reaches, to where he parks his car, what happens at the registration, what he wears in the locker room, how he follows the direction signage... there has to be a smooth flow.

Ask any Indian player and for him to have arrived in golf is to have won at RCGC. Brand Royal has never got its due. The course can be a great tourist plug being the oldest golf course in the world outside the British Isles. It would be on the bucket list of most golfers in the world. It’s time that the Royal gets its due.

— Brandon de Souza,runs BDMS, part of the management of the tournament

THE ROYAL STEP TO PUT GOLF BACK ON THE MAP

Till 1999, there used to be a major tournament every year in golf. For the last decade or so, we’ve only had very small events, especially after ITC withdrew their sponsorship for sports. After that there have been no tournaments in Calcutta. Thereafter McLeod has come forth. The McLeod Russel Tour Championship will change the way people here perceive golf. Being a big-ticket championship, it will make people and sponsors look at Calcutta and the Royal as another venue. This is what we used to be known for. McLeod also wanted Royal as a partner.

Another thing I must mention is how the club has come forward to help. The members have been very kind — the course was closed 10 days before the tournament. None of the members have been able to play but no one has been complaining. The course is being prepared to bring it to top-notch condition. The tournament will help showcase the club and the players who are coming down for the game and everyone is already talking highly about it. We hope to get more such events in the future with the support of the general committee which has stood firmly behind the event.

— Gaurav Ghosh,convener for junior/professional golf, RCGC

THE GREENS ARE GEARED UP

He was 11 when he started looking after the greens, in a farm in upstate New York, for “a couple of dollars in the summer”. Today, Tim Denham, 48, has travelled across the best courses in the world — he was last at Orange Lake Country Club in Orlando — before taking charge as the golf course superintendent in RCGC.

A chat with the expert on how the greens are in their best shape ever.

What’s the speed of the greens now?

In July, our green speed might have been 6.5ft to 7ft on the stimp meter. Now we’re producing 9-plus speed. With a little manipulation of the heights and cuts, as well as rolling, we’ll approach 10-plus ft. That’s a 40 per cent difference from the monsoon months when I came here. And that number is representative of the quality of the greens.

When I first got here, it was raining like crazy and there was not a lot of sunshine and grass doesn’t like that. So the challenge is environmental. We’ve got a lot of manpower, a lot of support from the administration and the members here. The real challenge is working with the environment, the lack of sunshine and too much water. Most of the grass used in golf courses all over India don’t like too much water. They perform better with lesser amounts of water, otherwise insects take over. That’s a big challenge.

What’s some of the feedback you’ve been getting?

Lately, it’s been fantastic. I don’t hear any complaints. The monsoons can be punishing but once we get out of that, the quality of the golf course gets better. Everybody’s been complimenting the course!

Is India a developing market for golf?

Well, I had been trying to get into India for a while. I have a lot of friends working in Asia central who are building and managing golfcourses. The markets are growing here. It’s good industry, it’s good business, it gives people leisurely things to do. Where I come from, golf courses are a hub for business development. People get together and talk about ideas and strategies and business.