Brandon de Souza of Tiger Sports Marketing pens a diary for Metro on the McLeod Russel Tour Championship at Royal Calcutta Golf Club
Twelve months is a long time to wait but for this kind of golfing extravaganza in Calcutta, it was well worth it. The second McLeod Russel Tour Championship, bigger and better with Rs 1.35 crore has just concluded. Fairy tales are usually confined to storybooks. We were close to seeing one when Rahil Gangjee jumped out of the blocks that would have made Usain Bolt proud. Five birdies in the first six holes and he had really set the Royal (Royal Calcutta Golf Club) on fire. But Anirban Lahiri showed he is made of sterner stuff, stamped his class all over the golf tournament, recovering from his disastrous double bogey on hole number two today and finished at a tournament record of 17 under. Sentimentally the whole crowd would have liked to see Rahil win, having just lost his father. He actually used a sponsor’s invitation to get in as he had not played enough events including last week’s Tata Open.
However, you cannot take away from Anirban because he played brilliantly for the first three days. Finally he played only four PGTI events this year and won three of them to show the chasm between him and the rest of the field. The fact is that it looked like a one-horse race till the game started on the fourth day. However, in golf, you have a very favourite saying: ‘it’s not over till the fat lady swings’, not sings. Anirban looked like he had opened the door when he double bogeyed the second hole and we had a three-way tie. However, he composed himself very quickly and with birdies on 4, 5 and 9, he ensured he gave himself enough of a cushion as he cantered home to victory.
| McLeod Russel 2013 Tour Championship winner Anirban Lahiri (right) and runner-up Rahil Gangjee (left) — at Royal Calcutta Golf Club on Sunday. Pictures: Anindya Shankar Ray
Rahil who had a torrid time on the greens all week had a blackout from hole 8 through 12, but credit must go to his fine finish when he birdied 15 and 17 to secure second place alone. Chiragh Kumar and Abhinav Lohan also had a good outing, sharing 3rd place at minus 10. It is lovely to see people like Jyoti Randhawa… the fire still burning in the belly. He’s had an up-and-down sort of year, but clearly class tells. He hung in there. With a 69 on the last day and a total of minus nine, he finished alone in fifth place.
The Royal die-hard would have loved to see SSP Chowrasia repeat his victory from last year. While he never recovered from his first day when he shot the three over, he must be quite exhausted after many weeks of travelling overseas especially in Asia and Europe. Next year he plans to concentrate on playing in Asia. So, we can expect big things from him.
Now, let’s turn to the young brigade. Rashid Khan won the Rolex Order of Merit for 2013 PGTI season with over 46 lakh in prize money (46,38,284 lakh). In his rookie season last year he came close but was pipped by Shamim Khan (who shot the lowest score of the tournament today-64). S. Chikkarangappa covered himself in glory with another strong finish at this event and was one of the big reasons to rejoice in Indian golf. He won the Emerging Player of the year and along with people like Khalin Joshi and Ajeetesh Sandhu, they are our future.
When one looks down at the results of this week’s event, out of the top 21 players, nine are under 25 years of age and only two older than 30.
The PGTI Tour has a lot of things to be grateful for this year. The biggest of course is the Volvo tour sponsorship. Car companies are synonymous with golf sponsorship anywhere in the world and luxury cars as hole-in-one prizes are a given. With Volvo on board and Calcutta soon having its first dealer in the next three months, may be next year this could be a great value addition.
Moving more to the personal side of things, players always have lots of niggles. So, if the PGTI had one wish list, they would love to have a travelling spa tie-up. This is something that happens globally where there are three-four therapists travelling with the Tour. In Calcutta for the second year in a row, we had Four Fountains Spa setting up a corner at RCGC for the McLeod Russel Tour Championship and was well-used by all the players.
The turnout for the tournament was very reassuring. Just when you were losing faith that Calcutta was losing its interest in watching sports, today we were proven wrong. For everybody who came out, it’s a big hurray because we know this event is back on the calendar next year.
While Gaganjeet Bhullar might not have won this year, for his exemplary on and off course behaviour, he truly deserves a special mention. While he won the Arjuna Award and over half a million dollars globally, nothing is too much for this really nice guy. His small gestures of giving golf balls to the recorders on course, of thanking Aditya Khaitan (of McLeod Russel) for the sponsor’s invite was truly nice to see. That’s the orientation that our players need to have. The players need to understand that the sponsors are the lifeblood of any sport.
The good news is we’ve got a champion product in McLeod Russel Tour Championship. The bad news is we have to wait 12 months for their next edition unless someone else gets the Indian Open back to the city.