I recently had a whirlwind three day visit to Kathmandu, Nepal, and the first interesting thing was that the whole time I was there, I was within 500 metres of the airport! My hotel, Hotel Hema, was half a kilometre away from the airport, and Royal Nepal Golf Club, where Fairways' Nepali program is run, is 150 metres from the airport exit door.
Sachin Bhattarai, the golf pro at RNGC recommended the Hotel Hema as a fellow golfer Saroj Bastakoti owns the hotel. The accommodation was fantastic, with high quality finishes, a comfortable bed and delicious food.
I was met at the airport by Sachin and his student, Pratima Sherpa, a teenage golfing sensation who has aspirations of being the first Nepali LPGA tour player. Fairways has been supporting Sachin and Pratima for over a year after Gordon Moir at St. Andrews, emailed me a Golf Digest article about them written by Oliver Horovitz. I sent Oliver and email saying, “Hi I’m Tiff, I founded a non-profit five months ago sponsoring underprivileged junior golfers all over the world and I would like to know how we can help?”
Many of you know that one of the ways Fairways supports junior golfers is by paying golf professionals and businesses directly. And after we learned about Sachin's junior golf program, which he had been delivering to underprivileged kids for years... for FREE, we started paying him to support that program.
It was wonderful to be speaking to Sachin and Pratima in person. We chatted for an hour at the hotel about junior golf in Nepal and their recent visit to California, where Pratima had won a tournament and came third in another.
The next day we teed it up at Royal Nepal and were joined by a young man, a very talented cadet named, Bipin Tamang. While we played Sachin and I discussed the expansion of his junior program and how Fairways can help him. Sachin had also spoken with the Nepali Golf Association about my visit, and while we were meant to have a meeting, unfortunately the gentleman we were to meet with was ill.
I am very pleased to say that not only will we be partnering with Sachin and taking on all six juniors in his program, but we will also look to add more cadets at the Himalayan Golf Course, in Pokhara, central Nepal. Sachin thanked me for giving him the confidence to pursue his dreams of growing golf in Nepal and for the support to do it.
Pratima is also very keen to grow golf in Nepal, particularly female golf. She was born, grew up, and still lives with her parents in the maintenance shed behind the 3rd green at RNGC. One of the things Fairways did for her was to source a solar light so she could study at night for her school exams. She had lived for her whole life without a proper light to read by!
Pratima started practicing with Sachin when she was 13 and is now, age 18, the number one female golfer in Nepal. She hopes more young women will take up the game like her, and would like to see a ladies division at Nepali golf tournaments.
The next day, I caddied for her in the first golf tournament of the season. Held at RNGC, it consisted of 38 men and Pratima. I asked her if she was nervous or treated strangely the first time she played against the men. She smiled shyly, nodded and told me the first tournament she played against the men she won.
Before Pratima started her round, a gentleman came and said hello to her and asked what I was doing there. I told him I was her caddy and we got to chatting. His name was Ghana Shyam Thapa, and he was the first ever Nepali golf pro! He was also sponsoring the tournament. It was fantastic chatting with him about how golf in Nepal has changed during the last 50 years and I look forward to my return visit when we will catch up again.
The tournament started, and boy can she play! She held her own against the men, out-driving many of them. I had to leave to catch a flight before the round finished, but she sent me a message to say she shot 3 under, which made her the top amateur put her in 13th overall. She went on to win the amateur trophy.
Sachin popped to the hotel to see me before I left. His excitement about the prospect of what we can do in Nepal with a little more support is contagious (actually I am as excitable as he is) and we hugged, laughed and chatted about our plans.
I am very lucky to know such wonderful ambassadors for the game and I am pleased that Fairways can help to grow golf in Nepal. Since that time, three more cadets, two young women and Bipin Tamang have developed to the point where they have started competing alongside Pratima.
Being able to connect via social media has brought our juniors in all countries together and I am always surprised and happy when I see the juniors in Canada, India and Bolivia commenting and liking posts from the other Fairways cadets. Who would have thought that an idea of mine in April 2016 would now be connecting junior golfers all over the world?
I could not have achieved what I have without the hardworking (I would say uncomplaining but that isn’t quite true [I'm complaining about you, not the work - Ed.]) Jeremy in Australia, and I am thankful that he believes what I do - that we are building something great.
If you can help us continue to grow and can sponsor or perhaps are a golfer yourself please look at our Awesome 4somes and our Become A Sponsor page as every cent helps underprivileged juniors all over the world.
Thank you so much!