At 7am I was off to golf at Royal Calcutta Golf Club, with pro Indrajit, and a few of the boys in his junior golf program. Goga (my caddy from yesterday) met me in my street and we walked the few blocks to the golf club.
Indrajit and I had a wager on our golf today I was betting my favourite golf ball marker I had picked up in Scotland. Indrajit turned up five minutes before teeing off and as he had my clubs and shoes in his car I am not sure if this was part of his strategy or if it was increased traffic due to one of the world's biggest festivals that started in Kolkata today.
I popped my shoes on and greeted two boys from Indrajit's Protouch Golf Academy, Sunit Chowrasia and Souvik Nayak. I had met Souvik the day before. He had won the B division of The Tolly Juniors Open, then had a benefactor take him under his wing and sponsor his golfing expenses for the foreseeable future. I was very happy to get to know the boys better.
The boys were playing from the tips and with such skill. There was some wonderful golf happening, occasionally from my club, and it was a delight being on one of the oldest golf courses outside of Britain. Again today there were jackals lazing in the shade, a plethora of birds and hundred year old trees adding to the experience.
After seven holes I was two up in my little wager with Indrajit and I played the 8th really well so he had no chance. I probably shouldn't have accepted the two shots per hole but he offered and only because he witnessed one of my worst rounds in a long time yesterday. He must have felt sorry for me.
I find that playing earlier is easier on the hands - I think if I lived in India I would be a gloved golfer, as once your hands start to sweat, the club just slips so then you grip it tighter, then you duff your shots (or maybe that is just me).
I had a good golf chat with Indrajit about his junior program which he started approx 14 years ago with 5 juniors and has increased it to 500 juniors. He also helps clinics across India with advice, training and implementation of similar programs to help grow the game in this country. I am glad that we can help some of the children to keep a fairway under their feet. While I would like to do more at this point we just don't have the funds.
Indrajit left after 9 as he had a meeting - he should have stayed as my golf got worse as the heat increased and there definitely would have been a match on.
We were joined by another junior boy, Manish Rajak, and I was pleased to have time to chat to them all about their golf and what they love about it. Their eyes light up when they talk about the competition. They play 3-4 times a week and practice 2-3 times a week having one day off for rest. For a 13 year old that is quite the regimen however if these boys are going to continue contesting junior titles across India they need to practice.
Yesterday at the award ceremony, Indrajit was asked to say a few words to the children. He told them their scores weren't good enough and if they wanted to challenge the juniors in other regions, they would need to give it everything and be determined and put the effort in. While that may seem a little harsh, he told me that 8 or so of the top ten golfers in each division yesterday are all from his program. I can see he is pleased - as long as they keep putting the effort in. Indrajit is revered. All the juniors speak of him highly and are in awe of him.
Indrajit ensures many underprivileged juniors get to play golf. While funds have been tight to get them playing competitively, they can practice continuously without needing to pay any fees.
Sunit had inadvertently hit my ball on the 16th and as we were walking down the 17th he asked me what I was using as he had never heard of Snell Golf. I was carry a number of donated balls from Snell Golf Canada, organised by Mike Johnny. I told Sunit how Dean Snell used to design balls for TaylorMade, and how he started making tour quality balls for half the price. All the boys looked excited. I pulled out a ball and flung it to Sunit and told him to give it a whirl. He happily teed it up on the 18th, testing it and seeing how it played. He seemed very happy with the results.
While I am here on a bit of a whirlwind tour - Indrajit could not believe I watched a YouTube video of kids golfing in India, then decided to fly here India to help them - I look forward to our continued relationship and watching the golf of these boys develop as they play the national junior tour.