Jeev to Ajeetesh; Sharma to Kochhar; old buddies Kapur and Ghei relieved to be back on a golf course

V Krishnaswamy

New Delhi, May 21: The golfers are back. From Chandigarh to Delhi to  Bengaluru, they are all back on the course and swinging away but with a new set of Covid-19 rules in addition to what they normally do in the game.

At the Delhi Golf Club, Shiv Kapur was swinging clubs alongside old friend, Gaurav Ghei, both of whom have tasted internationals wins at the course and who have practically learnt all their golf at the DGC. And of course, both were masked up. No backslapping, no handshakes, just an acknowledgement of the other’s good shot. No customary snacks and coffee or lemon juice, but just a goodbye and drive back home.

In Chandigarh, the city’s most recognisable golfer, the 90-year-old Milkha Singh, is yet to hit the course, but his son, a standard bearer of Indian professional golf, Jeev Milkha Singh, was there at the Chandigarh Golf Club with his buddies.

Precautions prescribed because of his age kept the senior Milkha away from the course, but the younger one was out there with his mates, Uttam Singh Mundy, former pro and now CEO of PGTI, Gurbaaz Mann, a former pro and now a coach and Ajeetesh Sandhu, a regular on Asian and PGTI Tours. Maintaining social distance, wearing an assortment of mask (Mundy had the most fashionable one) they all maintained the “Covid-19 rules” while playing golf. Amritinder Singh, a former Asian Tour pro, and now a swing coach for Jeev, and a good friend of all of them, accompanied them all.

Jeev said, “To be honest, it was most relaxing to be out and playing golf after such a long time. More than two months since I hit a ball. So a bit of rust, but nobody minded that. We were just happy to be on a golf course.”

He called it a liberation of the mind.” He added, “We knew what we were in for – temperature check, sanitiser, one-cart-one-person, carts sanistised, no shaking hands, high-fives from far and maintaining social distance. We golfers are used to a lot of discipline, so respecting the ‘new’ rules in these times was part of that,” added the 48-year-old Jeev.

“Maybe what I missed was my Dad on the course, where he is a regular. But since he is 90, he was not allowed and he sure missed the action,” said Jeev.

“There were no stunning shots. But everybody was really excited to be on the course after two months. A lot of funny shots were hit on the course but we were all grateful to be playing after a long time.”

“Amritinder did not play. He just walked and kept us in good humour and watched our shots… he is a coach, so it was like a ‘Coach with four trainees” in action,” said Jeev with a laugh, happy doing what he enjoys most.

With no caddies – they have not been allowed back as yet at Chandigarh golf Club since many of them come from containment zones – one person drove the cart with thee bags and others walked the course. “We are used to walking as pros, so that was perfect,” said Jeev.

Also hitting the course was Shubhankar Sharma with fellow pro, Karandeep Kochhar and Rohan Kathuria. “Just being back on a golf course was exhilarating,” said Sharma.

Ghei whose first and most famous Asian Tour win, the Gadgil Western Masters, came at this course 25 years ago, said, “Being away from golf was so strange. It is the only thing I have done and it’s the thing I know best and it has been my livelihood for three decades. So its great to be back playing golf, even with rules that we never even thought of.”

Kapur’s final verdict: “It’s not the golf I grew up with. But, this could be the new normal. Yet, I am happy being able to swing a club after such a long time.”


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