Looking to Rio 2016

Rio 2016 could turn out to be a watershed in Indian golf. With resistance from government agencies and their apathy in general, golf has not made a big impact on the Indian mindset. However, Anirban Lahiri is of the view that there is a way out to goad the government into encouraging golf which has put India on the world map, especially after Jeev Milkha Singh — once ranked in the top 50 — had triggered a wave of interest among the youngsters. Lahiri said a medal at the Rio Olympics should turn things around.

He did not mince words. “First we want to get into the Olympics. Only two Indians would qualify and it depends on their world rankings. But once we are in, we would like to win a medal. An intelligent guess is that the qualifiers will be known by end of 2015. We have to sustain our performance. We would like nothing better than a medal, show it to the government and then perhaps it would respond,” he said at the Bombay Presidency Golf Course (BPGC).

As per the World Golf Rankings, for the week ending February 16, 2014, Lahiri was No. 106. Behind him were Gaganjeet Bhullar (140) and Shiv Kapur (141).

During a promotional event at the BPGC a few years ago, Jeev had urged the authorities to build driving ranges all over the country. Lahiri echoed a similar sentiment. “We are a (nation of a) billion strong people. And for the game to spread, it has to start at the grass roots, meaning schools and colleges. There have to be driving ranges, but the problem is that if you get a 200 yards space, you would probably see a 50-storied apartment, not a driving range. Financially, that is more viable and who can blame the people taking those decisions? At the end of the day, the sport will suffer. You need individuals, corporations and governments to step in and dedicate space for golf and make a driving range,” he said.

Lahiri cited the instance of Japanese taxi drivers being able to experience the thrill of playing golf at a driving range. “A taxi driver in Japan will hit golf balls. He does not know how a golf course looks like, but he has gone and hit golf balls at a driving range; he knows what the game is about, what a golf club is about, the ball position and the swing... I think that is what we need (driving ranges), that is what would take the game to the next level. Hopefully, we will see that happening post Olympics. When the announcement (golf would be a medal sport at Rio 2016) came, we thought it (golf facilities and driving ranges) would happen in India; it did not and it is very disturbing,” he said.