After breakfast at the guest house I prepped my golf gear before Mintu arrived to meet me at 9am. I shouldered my bag and headed out. Tollygunge Club is a 5 minute walk from where I am staying. It was very humid and I felt sweat dripping down my back. Mintu had arranged a caddy for me who was waiting across the main road. I have never used a caddy before so it was strange giving him my bag and as we were walking on the street I kept glancing over my shoulder to ensure a wayward driver hadn't driven into my clubs. I do believe the caddy had done this before as they were fine.
Upon arrival at the club I met the Director of Golf at Tollygunge GC, Indrajit Bhalotia and we discussed junior golf in India. Indrajit is running junior programs for underprivileged both here and at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club. He has children of caddies who have been playing for a while and are in the top twenty juniors in India. He also has slum children who have never had golf in their life, who are new to it and are loving the game.
We chatted about the best way Fairways could help some of these children and we will be sponsoring a few before I leave. A national junior competition was underway at the club so I watched quite a few groups come through the 16th green and tee of the 17th. The 17th can prove tricky as it is a narrow tree lined tunnel to get over the water and on to the fairway. I watched many do well, and some not so well. One junior, who I do not believe is underprivileged, snapped a club over his leg after finding the water three times.
The juniors in Indrajit's program use donated clubs on a loan system, and other equipment given to them, such as balls, are recorded. This is to ensure that the expensive equipment isn't sold by desperate families. Indrajit did have a major corporate sponsor that donated $10,000 a year which covered tournament fees across India for all the juniors - slum children and caddies' children - that were playing at the elite level, yet the company withdrew the funding stating they would rather put their money into food programs. That is also a wonderful thing, but with a lack of funding the golfing kids need help to continue what they are doing.
I think it was a blessing that my trip North was cancelled, as I can do so much more here as anything Fairways can do will be much appreciated assistance. Following the tournament I played the front 9 with Mintu, and then caught up with Indrajit and played the back 9. My golf was pretty woeful but the golf chat was great.
Post round Indrajit had arranged for me to meet five slum children who are new to golf and loving it. They love the competition side and had brought along some trophies and certificates they had won recently for most improved golf team. I watch their eyes light up when talking about playing and I get it. I only wish I had the funds to sponsor dozens of juniors here.
Indrajit gives his time, and practice facilities free to the children, working with many to develop their golf at both courses, but the discounted green fee costs need to be covered. We worked out that for around $500 US we could get 5 children golfing once a week for 12 months. It was a pleasure meeting the juniors and I gave them two Snell golf balls each that had been donated for exactly that purpose and they were delighted.
Now I just need to raise the funds to keep these kids on the fairway.