Former Indian Open champs walk down memory lane

PTI| Updated: Oct 21, 2013, 17:04 PM IST

New Delhi: The first Indian professional golfer to win the prestigious Indian Open, Ali Sher today walked down memory lane, ruminating about his early playing days when golf was considered a "boring" game for the "oldies" and clubs used to made of "wood".

Sher, who along with two other Indian winners C Muniyappa (2009) and Vijay Kumar (2002), launched the Indian Open trophy for the 50th edition of the tournament, said Indian golf has come a long way since then.

"It has been 50 years and it is great for the Indian golfers. I remember, it was PG Sethi who was the first amateur to win the title in 1965. There was a big gap after that, before I won it in 1991," Sher said.

"At that time, golf was not so popular. It was considered a boring game for the oldies. But slowly there was awareness and now for the past five years, the youngsters are playing well and with Indians winning now, there is an awareness for golf in India.

The diminutive Indian had broken the foreign stranglehold in 1991 when he first shot a 67 to take the lead with the help of a hole-in-one on the 184-yard seventh on the second day and then finished with a dramatic birdie on the final hole to trigger a revolution in Indian golf.

A caddie at the Delhi Golf Club, Sher had scripted a story which only grew more memorable when he repeated his feat in 1993, beating another Indian Feroz Ali by one stroke.

"I used to go with my father to the club and got interested. There were no clubs at that time, we used to make clubs and drivers with wood and play with the stick. Now there are metal drivers. Now getting equipment has also become easy, balls are of very good quality," continued Sher, who has the best score of nine-under.

"In 1991, people felt it was just by chance that I won but when I won in 1993, then they felt okay it was genuine. It was covered by media then and golf got publicity. It was showed on TV for a couple of years and awareness grew. People used to recognise me when I used to travel in the bus," recalls Sher.

His feat gave Sher accolades and awards as he was conferred the Arjuna Award. His story inspired Indians such as Feroze Ali (1998) and Arjun Atwal (1999) and Jyoti Randhawa(2000, 2006, 2007) to emerge as winners.

The formation of Professional Golfers Tour of India (PGTI) in 2006-07 made things better for Indian golf as the prize money was also significantly increased.

"At that time, there was not much of pro golf, only a few people played. After the prize money was increased, things started changing in Indian golf," said Sher.

Another Indian winner, Vijay Kumar, who clinched the title in 2002, said: "It has been easier to play golf now. One can easily get equipment, like balls, shoes etc. There are a lot of opportunities to improve one`s game.

"There are lot of chances for an Indian to win now. A short driver will have an edge at the DGC. I see a strong chance for the Indians to win this time," said Vijay, who hails from Lucknow and wants his son to also take up the sport.

The Golden Jubilee edition of the Indian Open will be played from November 7 to 10 at the DGC and will see a star-studded field, including Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal, Jyoti Randhawa and many international stars.