Gaurav Ghei has been a pioneer of sorts for Indian golf. He became the first Indian to win on the Asian Tour–the Gadgil Western Masters in 1995.
In 1997, he was the first Indian to qualify for the Majors–the British Open–in Scotland.
Now, a “ceremonial golfer” as he calls himself, the 53-year-old from Delhi is not fighting for top 10 finishes anymore, but enjoying the sport and ensuring he posts a decent score.
“It’s tiring for me to play the tournament in the heat,” he smiles, as he prepares to chat after finishing the round of the Chennai Open golf tournament at the Cosmo-TNGF course here on Thursday.
“I haven’t been able to play that much this season. I was a bit unwell. Didn’t really prepare. I am glad to have played four rounds (including practice). I don’t have great expectations. I wanted to come to Chennai as it holds a special place in my heart,” he said.
Ghei’s connection with the city dates back to the 1980s. Ghei had taken part in the MAM Muthiah Cup in Guindy in 1985-86. In fact, Ghei has been an employee of India Cements from 1996 till now. “Even before that Mr. N. Srinivasan (Vice-Chairman & Managing Director of India Cements) has been sponsoring me (from 1993). My association with India Cements is almost 30 years,” he said.
Ghei played The Hindu Open in 1990 as an amateur and did really well. “I nearly won the tournament and finished second to Basad Ali. That gave me the confidence and the required spark to turn professional,” he said.
Ghei then went on to win the Hindu Cosmo Open three consecutively times: 1995-96, ‘96-97 & ‘98-99. “That was very special,” he said.
Having played at the Cosmo-TNGF course umpteen number of times, Ghei is stunned by its transformation. “It was just the opportunity to come back and play at Cosmo-TNGF course and see the transformation they have made over the years. I last played here in 2003. There was hardly any grass then. It was hard red clay in most places. Now it is a well-conditioned golf course. It’s not all about power, one has to think his/her way. With the breeze it can be very challenging,” he said.
Ghei is occupied with his post as Secretary of Delhi Golf Society and is eager to coach the kids and be a mentor to them. “I know how important it is to play with a carefree attitude. I got regular support from India Cements. I was not asking anybody anything. I would just decide where I want to play and went there and played. For somebody who doesn't have that support, it becomes very difficult. That’s what we need to change; give support to the guys who have the potential, make it worthwhile for them to play pro golf," he said.
For the sport to grow, Ghei said clubs which have golf courses need to groom the next generation. “It all starts from the Clubs. In Chandigarh, Delhi, Kolkata and Bengaluru, they have junior programmes. The Indian Golf Union and the golf fraternity should look at promoting junior golf. They need to be proactive,” observed Ghei, who has 17 titles on the domestic circuit.