The Korean's have been leading the charge out of Asia over the last fifteen years. With world class women golfers and now male golfers competing and winning on the world stage, including major championships.
They are closely followed by the Japanese,Thai's and recently the Chinese. The attention lately has been on the Chinese as they have over the last ten years built literally hundreds of golf courses, trained and certified thousands of teaching professionals and sent their best young amateurs overseas to train and compete against the bes,t and are now seeing the results in amateur golf and on the LPGA Tour.
Arjun Atwal Winning the Wyndam Championship on the PGA Tour
But flying under the radar have been the golfers from India who have been going quietly about their business with great success. And I believe the next generation will do even better.
India in-fact has a long history in golf as the first club outside of the British Isles was established in Calcutta in 1829 (Royal Calcutta Golf Club).
At that point in time the Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St. Andrews was five years away from being established, and it would be 19 years before the gutta percha ball replaced the feathery ball!
India over the last fifteen years has been producing world class golfers in Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal, Jyoti Randhawa and recently Shiv Kapur and Gaganjeet Bhullar.
Between the six of them they have won on every major tour in the world. It is an impressive record that not many people are aware of and is highlighted below.
PGA Tour: 1 win
Euro Tour: 7 wins
Asian Tour: 27 wins
Japan Tour: 5 wins
The most successful golfers have been Jeev Milkha Singh and Arjun Atwal. Jeev has won four times each on the European and Japan Tour, plus six on the Asian Tour. Arjun has won on the PGA Tour, three times on the European Tour, and seven times on the Asian Tour. Very Impressive records indeed.
Both attended college in the USA (as did Shiv Kapur) as that was the trend in the 1990's where most young Asian golfers with any ability would enroll in the US College system to access good coaching and gain an education at the same time.
Over the last five years this paradigm is shifting and for numerous reasons. The young Indian golfer now has more support from the Indian Golf Union who also recognize and support the National Golf Academy of India as the provider of certified golf teachers in India.
The NGAI was formed in 2004 and up to date has accredited over 275 teaching professionals and is based in Chandigarh which is where Jeev Milkha Singh was born.
There is an organised professional tour (PGTI) which was formed in 2006 and growing each year with 25 tournaments scheduled for 2013. PGTI is now affiliated with the International Federation of PGA tours and has two co-sanctioned events with the Asian Tour (Indian and Sail Open's) and the Avantha Masters with the European Tour.
Having a local tour like PGTI allows young professionals to play and compete regularly so they can keep improving and have the opportunity to move up to the Asian Tour and beyond like their role models did.
The Indian Golf Union with help from the Royal and Ancient and the PGA of Europe now have the funding, expertise and vision to develop and grow the game of golf in India. Combine this with a working relationship with NGAI and PGTI therefore puts in place a seamless pathway for young golfers to achieve their full potential.
All the above cannot happen if new golfers are not attracted to the game and this is where a company like Evolution Golf (co founded by Shivas Nath and Armit Nigam) plays a big part in filling the base of the pyramid with their Starting New At Golf (SNAG) program.
It is designed for the entry- level players and can be set up either indoors or outdoors.
This allows the coaching team at Evolution Golf to introduce the game to juniors as young as 3 years old and guide them along a development pathway until they achieve an advanced level.
The one area that India lags behind is having enough golf courses and also access to play once the new golfers get the urge to play "real golf".
This is where all countries struggle as its easy to get new golfers started but to keep them in the game is the main issue.
So if there is any one area that will hold Indian golf back it will be the lack of affordable public access golf courses and practice facilities. It will take all the stakeholders involved with the golf game in India to be on the "same page" and have a long-term player development blueprint in place.
They are closer to achieving that goal then they have ever been. With the top three Indian golfers now in their early forties it is time for the next generation to step up and take Indian golf to the top in the World Golf Rankings.
And they are! Gaganjeet Bhullar in 2012 has broken into the top 100 of the World Golf Rankings and won multiple times on the Asian Tour. Anirban Lahiri at the age of 25 has also won twice on the Asian Tour and moving up the rankings.
Both India and China will follow Korea's footsteps and start to impact men's and women's world golf in the next decade.
Golfers from the USA dominated golf in the 50's,60's,70's and will always be the benchmark for golfers around the world to beat. But in the 80's, 90's and 21st century European (including South African's) have challenged the US dominance from majors to team events.
The same will happen in the next twenty years when more and more golfers from Asia rise and become World Class. I believe Indian golfers will be represented and be leading that charge.
Indian golf has a proud and long history and with the role models like Jeev, Arjun and Jyoti leading the way the younger Indian golfers have a great opportunity to make more history in the 21st Century.
David Milne and Lawrie Montague - Pro Tour Golf College
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