With Chandigarh Golf Club hosting the second Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) event in the form of Jeev Milkha Singh Invitational in as many years, the club hosted the highest prize money tournament in PGTI calendar. The club, founded in 1962, did not host any PGTI tournaments between 2014 and 2016. PGTI CEO Uttam Singh Mundy, in an interview with The Indian Express, rates the course highly and calls Chandigarh a breeding ground for Indian professional golfers.
The Jeev Milkha Singh Invitational was the highest prize money tournament on PGTI calendar this year. While Chandigarh Golf Cub did not host any PGTI event for three years before hosting last year’s Take Open, how do you see this development?
I think it is fantastic to bring back such a tournament to Chandigarh Golf Club. Last year the Take Open, which was won by local lad Shubhankar Sharma, was a success and the sponsors apart from the golfers were happy the way the tournament was conducted. It was one of the main reason that Take Solutions wanted to make it the highest prize money tournament on PGTI calendar. And the fact that the tournament has been named after six-time Asian Tour winner Jeev Milkha Singh makes it special for Indian golf. Jeev has been a flag bearer for Indian golf and this was due for a long time. Probably, we can come with some more tournaments like these on our calendar. As a pro golfer, I have played with Jeev so many times in my career and I still remember playing with him in Asian Tour events abroad. The way Jeev has won title on Asian Tour and European Tour is commendable and it motivated others to aim for the winning abroad.
Four winners on the Asian Tour out of the 25 professional Indian golfers, who have won the Asian Tour, come from Chandigarh with Jeev Milkha Singh winning six times apart from players like Shubhankar Sharma winning twice and Ajeetesh Sandhu winning once in the past one year. How do you see the rise of the golfers from the region on the international circuit?
I think the fact that Chandigarh has got such a good infrastructure to support all such golfers makes it a great venue for budding golfers. I would term Chandigarh as a great breeding ground for top professionals in the country. Apart from Jeev, whose 13 career international wins are still unmatched by any other Indian golfer, we have seen the rise of youngster Shubhankar Sharma. The youngster shifted to Chandigarh just because of the golf infrastructure and facilities the city has to offer and the way he has played on the Asian and European Tour apart from WGC Championships has been tremendous. Apart from the Chandigarh Golf Cub, the city has got the national golf academy at Chandigarh Golf Association Range and such an infrastructure is what is needed for promoting young talent. We have seen youngsters like Karandeep Kochhar, who finished second this week, and Aadil Bedi, a member of Indian team for Asian Games, who also hails from Chandigarh.
Currently PGTI hosts three Asian Tour co-sanctioned event in India. Asian Tour COO Cho Minn Thant too visited Chandigarh Golf Club earlier this week. How do you see that development and your views about Chandigarh Golf Club course?
Asian Tour have been open to the idea of having more tournaments in India and that was one of the reasons Asian Tour COO Cho Minn Thant visited Chandigarh. He wanted to see what Chandigarh as a city has to offer and how is the golf course . He was impressed by the course. Hosting an Asian tour event depends on various factors like sponsorship and if we can have the required amount of sponsorship for hosting such a event in Chandigarh, we will be open to it. Talking about the facilities, the way the club management and officials have set up the course has been tremendous. I visited the course 45 days ago and the course was in bad position after heavy rains. But the way the captain of the course KS Brar and officials spent time on the course and made it at par with conditions at any other top course in India was commendable. The fact that it is a tree-lined course adds a special character to it and the players need to hit the ball well and putt well too here. We saw some good scoring by players like Shiv Kapur, Chikkarangappa, Karandeep Kochhar and Jyoti Randhawa this week and all of them liked the conditions at the course.
From January 2019, PGTI will also offer Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points . Since last year, the tour has been an open tour with no restrictions on the number of foreign golfers playing. How do you see these steps?
I think getting the Official World Golf Ranking points for PGTI was a important step for Indian golf, as it will give an opportunity to young professionals to aim for wins on the tour and earn OWGR points. It took us a while to achieve this but it is a step forward for us. As more foreign golfers start playing on the tour, it will become more competitive. Players, who don’t have full tour card for Asian Tour or European Tour card can always come and play on PGTI Tour and earn OWGR points. I joined PGTI in 2009 after ending my professional career ended in 2008. We have come a long way in terms of increase in prize money apart from introducing a doping policy and being inducted into the International Federation of PGA Tours. Our focus now is to increase the number of Asian Tour co-sanctioned events in India and it’s only a matter of time that more tournaments start happening in India.