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Here’s looking at the future stars on our golfing horizon

ROYAL TEE - DAY 1

Brandon de Souza of Tiger Sports Marketing pens a diary for Metro on the McLeod Russel Tour Championship at Royal Calcutta Golf Club

While rightfully most of the golf news being covered in the Calcutta papers has been devoted to the big five specially exempt players — Anirban Lahiri, SSP Chowrasia, Gaganjeet Bhullar, Jyoti Randhawa and Rahil Gangjee — there is a great deal of depth in the field this week at the year-ending McLeod Russel Tour Championship at RCGC.

Anirban and Gaganjeet have been through a purple patch in Asia and have amassed close to half a million dollars each. While not taking away from their achievements, it is time to reflect on some of the future stars on the Indian golf horizon.

The Indian Golf Union has been going through a dilemma as many of the players have jumped onto the pro bandwagon too soon lured by the attractive prize money being offered. The youthful Rashid Khan may feel vindicated by the decision as for the last two years he has stayed close to the top of the prize money leader board and is currently in the number one position with earnings in excess of Rs 41 lakh.

There are currently some very exciting talents like Abhijit Singh Chadha, Ashbeer Saini, Shubhankar Sharma, Angad Cheema, Khalin Joshi, Arshdeep Tiwana and, of course, S. Chikkarangappa (Chikka) who is hot on the heels of Rashid to be the top money earner for the 2013 season. The names I have mentioned have met with varied success.

Chikka after doing national duty for six years would also feel that he made the right call as in his rookie season he has already amassed close to Rs 30 lakh. Just about a year ago Shubhankar, who has just turned 17, displayed his precocious talent when he narrowly beat Calcutta’s quickly improving star amateur, Viraj Madappa, who at only 15 in last year’s National Final has done reasonably well but his earnings are still at the Rs 8 lakh mark. The same goes for Khalin who has also donned India colours while Abhijit is currently in 10th place and has made Rs 14 lakh.

Looking at golf as a profession, the list of top 60 money earners in this country for 2013 truly makes for interesting reading.

For the players who are doing well overseas, these statistics will mean nothing as their real income is from the dollar earnings of the Asian/European/Challenge Tours. The need of the hour is for the other players to see very clear goals, find themselves backers to offset their travel and playing costs so that most of the money earned is banked and be clear that there is an upward trend in earnings every season. Else, work on a Plan B as living your dream is one thing but this becoming a nightmare not so pleasurable.

Many of our big stars of today like Jeev (Milkha Singh), Arjun (Atwal) and Shiv (Kapur) have been through the American College programme which is similar to what most of the US PGA stars have done as well. The NCAA is very well competed for and colleges like Brigham Young, Wake Forest, USC, UCLA, Texas, Oklahoma and the like have fantastic golf teams where players apart from excelling on the golf course are also expected to maintain their grade point average, else they are thrown off the team. The good instruction and routine that develops backed by intense competition prepares these players for the gruelling life ahead once they become touring professionals.

While one wishes our new crop well, staying amateur till one is ready to take the plunge, compete at the highest level and earn enough to be able to make investments should not be forgotten when they are making sensitive career decisions.

How are our young guns faring? Here are their approximate earnings for the 2013 season:

• 4th: Angad Cheema Rs 24 lakh

• 10th: Abhijit Singh Chadha Rs 14 lakh

• 20th: Ashbeer Saini Rs 9 lakh

• 30th: Mandeo Pathania Rs 6 lakh

• 40th: Honey Baisoya Rs 4.5 lakh

• 50th: Sandeep Syal Rs 3.40 lakh

• 60th: Siddharth Semwal Rs 2.50 lakh

Players who were showing promise as amateurs like Kanishk Madan, Raj Randhawa, Arjun Singh Chaudhri, Arshpreet Thind, Rajiv Datar and Aditya Bhandarkar are struggling this season to make cuts even though they have played all 16 events.

The silver lining is to see Mukesh Kumar still up there in 5th place after two decades and more than 100 titles while former Indian Open champions like C. Muniyappa and Ali Sher are sadly way down past the 75th position.

This week’s McLeod Russel Tour Championship purse could be the perfect money spinner for the top 60 and the battalion of young guns to really put their year in fast forward as a finish in the top 10 would easily double their earnings.