Calcutta: Times have changed, says Jyoti Randhawa, the first Indian to have topped the Asian PGA Tour’s Order of Merit. And they have changed for the better over the golf courses of India.
That’s probably because the golf courses themselves have changed. The designer facilities “reflect the mindset of golfers and designers around the world, and now since we get the best of equipment here too, it’s a big help,” said Randhawa, talking to The Telegraph over phone from Delhi Tuesday.
He is in the country for a week more before moving over to Japan where he has got a year’s exemption as Asian topper.
The money is the important factor, feels Randhawa. Echoing acceptable feelings that Indians never consider any adventure that hasn’t a ‘secure’ tag to it, Randhawa says.
“If you look at it with a practical mind you will notice that any player who has talent, and has the even mentality to stick it out for a while on the Hero Honda Indian Tour is probably looking at first getting his investment back. And if you study trends and prize money structures today, I guess that is a possibility.”
That theory certainly doesn’t explain prodigies like Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal, Arjun Singh and Randhawa himself. They are in a league of their own. “Look, when I started out, I was sure golf was something you did apart from your job.
“It was only later that I realised, and to my pleasant surprise, that this is a career in itself. I adjusted quickly.”
The results are there to show.
As Asian PGA Tour Order of Merit topper, Randhawa has earned a total of $ 266,263 from prizes alone (that is approximately Rs 1.3 crore). That apart he does endorse products, lines of more money.
Compare this with the income of any top class cricketer in the country and you will know how short of necessary hype golf is in this country.
Even the third-place finisher in the Order of Merit, Calcutta’s Arjun Atwal, totalled winnings of $ 207,624 (a little over Rs 1 crore). Jeev is earning somewhere over those limits. Moreover, Randhawa now gets a direct entry to the British Open, as well as the South African Open.
However, if one sees the top 85-86 on the Indian tour — and that’s a big number — the lower end 50 earn no less than Rs 2 lakh a year.
That’s certainly a career, considering most also have their personal endorsements that take care of travel and such expenses. The top win around Rs 4 lakh a year, the top five Rs 8 lakh a year, and top duo around Rs 10 lakh a year.
The lure is real today.
“The juniors are today looking at this sport as something more than just that,” Randhawa says. “Their parents are looking at it with respect too. It makes a huge difference.”
Getting to the top, though, isn’t a cakewalk. “The problem is with attitude,” says the Gurgaon man. Like I have my personal coach, Aussie Kel Llewyllyn of Melbourne, and I feel comfortable when I go over to him often and get my stroke, my swing and even my mind sorted out.
“But there are guys on the circuit who don’t care much for a coach. That’s their preference, but I feel somebody does need to watch from a distance to be able to correct.”
It is a feeling that has been around golfers on the Indian tour as well. Firoze Ali, for example, has been rather receptive to a common coach for the Tour, if it happens. “The information is necessary, whatever the route.”
“Then there comes the fitness angle,” says Randhawa. “It is very important. I do the regular yoga, and the freehand exercises, maybe I’ll later go into some weights. Golf the world around is getting fitter. You can’t get away with a poor physique nowadays.”
Randhawa’s next objective is to try the US PGA qualifying. “I’ll give it a try next year. I need that boost,” he says.
That’s packaged adrenaline.