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                               Tee Time  

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Ever wondered what drives your lazy, slothful husband to get up at the crack of dawn, spend hours on the course and an equal amount of the time discussing each chip, putt with the kind of intensity that would merit an international crisis. What piqued our interest in this game of golf is that there is no simple explanation for the fascination that it holds for the millions of its followers. The eternal search continues for that ever elusive secret. The magic formula that will allow the ball to be hit with the sane perfection everytime. More importantly, it is a status symbol as it costs an arm and a leg to join the oh-so exclusive golf clubs!

That the game has caught the fancy of the Puneites was obvious at the Blue Diamond Amateur Championship, held recently at the Poona Golf Course. But one wondered what makes the game so attractive and popular. The opinions varied as M.M .Krishna, who happens to be married to the lady behind Ray Advertising, taking a swig of the Kingfisher revealed, "Golf is a great leveler and that is what makes the game so attractive and addictive. The feeling of having hit the sweet spot of the club, resulting in a perfect shot could thrill the golfer for the days to come. Its just a game, a physical exercise that we indulge in. It is a way of life." Sporting a pony tail and sparkling Nike earring, he added, "If I needed exercise or a little some thing to stretch my muscles, I would exercise or at a gym or a jog but golf.." he trailed of meaningfully.

Rajendra Khelshikar, GM, Blue Diamond, sporting a golfing tie(!) that was the cynosure of all the golfers, pointed out that perfect business sense it makes to host such a tournament. "Pune is a corporate destination. The world over, this game has resulted in corporate executive heading for weekends in the golf resorts where one can play golf for weeks. As a matter of fact, we have a large group of executives from the Asian countries like Korea and Japan who love into coming into our hotels so that they can play golf for hours! And having a lush green course like this in the city where one can play without spending a mind-blowing amount of money is a big plus." Kumar Gera, the builder, chipped in passionately, "It is a better idea to invest in the game and so popular has the idea become that they even have a phrase coined for wives of golfers-- golf widows." As Arjuna awardee Amit Luthra opined, "Golf is the best way to know another person's character. Before you get married, you should invite your partner to a game of golf. His behavior on the course will reveal all. His honesty, integrity, temperament…..because it is so easy to be dishonest on the golf course when no one is looking! As a matter of fact, it is also the best place to clinch a business deal. While in the office, the MD of a company might provide with just fifteen minutes, on the golf course he is trapped with you for hours. He can't run away!" chortled the financial wizard. And the popularity of the of the game can be adjudged from the female following that one has. As Shiraz Kalra laughed, "I have girls in the ninth and the tenth standard calling me up in the wee hours of the night, wanting to be friends because they know that I play for the country!" And the success makes these men look even more attractive, can be seen as the designer watches, shoes, glares, T-shirts and after shaves are flashed on the green, green course. Even the Poona Club hosts golf clinics twice a year for six weeks, where these golfers give the non- golfers, a taste of what this game is all about, at  minimal prices.

The golfers tee off and as we follow their progress on the 18 hole course, avid golfers chip in with their observation of the game. "It is all in he mind. Unlike other games, wherein one is competing with others, here one is competing against the thoughts that steamroll in one's mind as one walks from one shot to another. They are also competing against the grain of the course," added Vasudevan, a golf coach. Suddenly terms like birdie's, eagles, water hazards, roughs, fairways, bunkers are the order of the day as the observers of the game explain each technique passionately. "Golf is a funny game whatever way you look at it ….. golf or flog!" averses Dinesh Thakur, whispering conspiratorially to Madhvi Vaidya about how they could hit better shots than some of these amateurs! As the pressure mounts, players throw away their clubs in disgust, yell and mumble to themselves in between shots. And the hushed whispers between the spectators which include Atul Kirloskar, Jethna, Kumar Gera, Padmaja Shirke become distinctly audible as they discuss who would win this prized tournament. Names and reasons fly thick and fast as each one comes up with a different view point.

With golf being an expensive game, its followers are usually from the upper echelons of the social strata. As Harmeet Khalon revealed, "Just a golf set of fourteen clubs costs the earth - ranging anywhere from 25,000 to 30,000. A membership in a club like the Delhi Golfing Club has a waiting list for a minimum of five or ten years. It is an expensive passion and not every one can afford it." Well, this golf course for one, boasts of name like Prakash Kalmadi, Bhausabeh Pathwardan, Baba Kalyani, the Police Commissioner, K.K. Kashyap who can be found teeing off on the course.

Woman golfers, though not many, are an interesting bunch from Alpana Kirloskar, Padmaji Shrike to Dr Rajeshwari Agarwal. As Padmaja candidly revealed, "I took up this game when we were on a vaccation in Mahabaleshwar and then enjoyed it so much, that I couldn't stop."

 



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