CHENNAI: On Thursday morning, a bunch of golfers, a few of them aspiring to represent the country at the 2024 Olympics, did what they have been doing for the last six months. Practising in a wasteland near the Noida toll. The risks come with the territory but when Rashid Khan and Honey Baisoya describe it, it still sounds terrifying.
“When we first started to train at the wasteland,” the former tells this daily, “a few of the people who knew the wasteland just asked to be in the lookout for snakes and monitor lizards. If the lizards bite you, survival can be tough.”
It’s what Baisoya, Khan and a bunch of others have been doing. Surviving. Ever since their bitter feud with the Delhi Golf Club snowballed six months ago to such an extent that a few golfers saw their access completely cut, they have stuck to the wasteland to develop their swings. It’s obviously not a healthy way for professionals to practise golf and it is not lost on both of them.
“Earlier I used to practice close to 10 hours,” Baisoya says. “Now, it’s come down to two hours.” There is also a possible health hazard. “The biggest problem is access to drinking water so all of us have been bringing in six-seven bottles of water every day because of how hot Delhi is right now.”
However, in all this uncertainty, Khan says he is ‘finally in a good mental space’. “To be honest, I was scared whenever I was at DGC in the final few months.” It had reached that stage because of a number of rule changes the DGC had carried out since 2016.
The relationship between player and club worsened after the latter brought in a doctrine where in golfers couldn’t train before 4.30 pm. That even had a rider — only applicable if there are no members using the course.
That was around the time when Khan became scared. “I was perennially living under the threat that they would ban me from using the club.” He also alleges that the DGC reserved these rules for ‘people coming from a certain strata of society’. This daily, however, couldn’t independently verify these allegations but Baisoya also sang from the same hymn sheet. After this came DGC’s ouster of Khan in January for alleged misbehaviour and hooliganism. The 28-year-old two-time winner on the Asian Tour maintains his innocence.
The ban forced him and other golfers to the wasteland. While the former Asian Games bronze winner isn’t too worried about himself, he is concerned for the growth of others who do not have access to the pay and play facilities at the myriad private clubs in and around Noida. It was a point also echoed by Baisoya.
Meanwhile, the sports ministry have adopted the wait and watch principle.
“I have to find out what’s the rule of the club. Any sports facility in the country must be accessible to the players. Having said that every sport facility has its own limitation, and it has to be managed in a professional way,” sports minister Kiren Rijiju had said. Is there an impasse in sight? Both Baisoya and Khan reply in the affirmative.