CHENNAI: Shiv Kapur has been playing professional golf for more than 15 years. Yet, on Wednesday, his first day back at a golf course (Delhi Golf Club) in more than two months, he was presented with a challenge he had never faced before in the sport. Driving, wedging and putting with a mask.
Why is that a challenge? "It interferes with your eyeline so it took some time getting used to it," the 38-year-old told The New Indian Express. He may have practised with it only for three days but he has already made his thoughts clear. "Playing with a mask on during a professional golf setting is not going to be possible."
Ajeetesh Sandhu, a regular on the Asian Tour, sings the same tune. "Obviously for a golfer, the eyeline is a critical part and the mask sort of interferes with that. But to be honest, these are the rules and we have to follow them." Sandhu, who returned to action in Chandigarh earlier this week, hopes masks do not become part of the golfer's paraphernalia when competition resumes later this year.
One subtle change, however, saw both of them raving in the era of social distancing. Because of the nature of the virus and how it is spread, courses have opted to put a contraption in place to ensure the golfers don't touch the ball after it's putted. "There is a contraption on the flagstick so that when it's putted, the ball can be scooped out and we don't need to touch it," Sandhu says of the new change. Earlier the golfers would have had to bend down to retrieve the ball from the hole.
Both of them felt different when they had a hit on Wednesday but they are thankful that they had the opportunity in the first place. "It just felt great after many weeks of not having a hit," Sandhu says. Getting back to the course is just the beginning as the sport, one of the first to come back in the country, plots a way back.
With the calendar eviscerated and no tournaments scheduled anytime soon, Kapur fears for the short term future. "As you know, golf is like any other business and a lot of people depend on it for their livelihood. With all the earnings that people have lost because of the calendar, it could already be curtains for a few."
It's why Kapur, who has made Dubai his base, is willing to risk going to tournaments soon even if there is no mass production of the vaccine. "There are a lot of viruses out there to be honest," he says. "Is this different from the others? From what I have read, yes, but ultimately life has to go on. You can maybe pause life for 4-6 months but 2-3 years? I don't know," he says.
Others plot way forward
The Karnataka Golf Association also opened their courses on Friday but many of the regulars who practise were conspicuous by their absence. Olympian Aditi Ashok for instance hasn't yet decided when to return. "We will take a call sometime soon, it could be next week I think," her mother, Maheshwari, said.
Udayan Mane, one of the most improved golfers in recent times, is still in lockdown in Pune and is waiting for a course to open there. "I will wait here for the next week or 10 days, then decide. If the lockdown isn't lifted by then, I might have to go to Ahmedabad to restart my training process."