The first time Flying Sikh Milkha Singh developed an interest in golf, a sport in which his son Jeev Milkha Singh would win 14 international titles later, it was in 1969 when the legendary athlete was given a golf set by a friend based in Edmonton. It was years later that the 1958 Commonwealth Games champion started playing the sport at the insistence of his friend and the then Punjab Governor Dharam Vira during his daily run at the 7,202-yard-long Chandigarh Golf Club.
“For a long time, the golf set languished in a forgotten corner of our house, gathering dust. One day, I was taking my usual run along the Chandigarh Golf Course when I was stopped by Dharam Vira, the then Governor of Punjab who asked me to join him on the course to play golf. No, I replied emphatically saying it’s an old man’s game. He insisted on bringing my golf set the next day and after that first lesson, I was addicted to the game,” writes Singh in his autobiography The Race of My Life.
A young Jeev developed an interest in the sport while he saw his father play at the course. With Milkha Singh not wanting him to pursue any sport, Jeev was admitted to a boarding school in Shimla. With Jeev still showing interest in golf, the family had to let Jeev play golf and later he would fetch the Doug Sanders Golf Scholarship to study at Abilene Christian University in Texas, USA. While Jeev would set the Indian and international golfing circuit on fire with his record wins, Milkha Singh would not miss a single round at the Chandigarh Golf Club.
The current course manager of Chandigarh Golf Club and Jeev’s long-time friend Amritinder Singh shared his memories of Milkha Singh. “It’s a big loss for the Chandigarh Golf Course and Milkha sir would be missed dearly. He would interact with almost each golfer and offer his words of encouragement. Beta, work hard and anybody can achieve success, he would say. He was so much involved in the game that he used to practise round daily and practise chipping and putting every day. He would also discuss golf rules with me and would call me during their four-ball,” Amritinder said.
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Milkha Singh also would opt for local caddies, including his son Jeev’s caddie Gurwinder Singh, sometimes apart from hiring caddies like Monty, Arun and Raju Pal regularly. “When I was on the bag of Jeev, Milkha sir would always encourage me and tell me to take care of Jeev. In 2017, when my son won a tournament in Panchkula, Milkha sir made sure to spend time with him and encourage him,” Gurwinder said.
Caddie Monty too remembers Milkha fondly. “Milkha sir was like a parent to all the caddies. I had been caddying for him for the last 28 years and we would get encouraged to see his fitness even at this old age. He would ask us about the well-being of our children and tell us to make our children study hard,” Monty said.
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