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LIVING GOLF: History of Golf in India; Jeev Milkha Singh, India's Golf Hero; Martin Kaymer on Bunker Shots; Next Generation of Indian Golfers

Aired May 5, 2011 - 13:30   ET


JONATHAN MANN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Jonathan Mann at the CNN Center with a look at the headlines we're following this hour.

At New York's Ground Zero, the US president took part in a remembrance ceremony honoring those killed in the September 11th terror attacks. Barack Obama laid a wreath at the survivor tree and, later, met privately with victims' families. His New York visit comes just days after US forces shot and killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The Libya contact group met in Rome Thursday. Representatives from the US and 21 other nations agreeing to set up a new fund to aid the Libyan rebels. The anti-Gadhafi fighters desperately need supplies and money to continue their struggle.

Just days after flight data recorders were recovered from the wreckage of Air France flight 447 in the Atlantic, the remains of one of the victims have been found, still attached to a seat from the plane. The jet crashed into the ocean off Brazil nearly two years ago, killing all 288 people onboard.

In Japan, workers are installing air ducts into the reactor number one building at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant to bring down radiation levels. Once the contamination is reduced, workers will be able to stay inside the building longer while they install a cooling system.

And those are the headlines. I'm Jonathan Mann. LIVING GOLF starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: LIVING GOLF, in time with Rolex.

SHANE O'DONOGHUE, CNN HOST: India, 182 years of golfing history. A sportsman population of 1.1 billion people. Some really world class stars. But not really, so far, a golfing nation. Is that about to change? Welcome to LIVING GOLF.

Echoes of empire and the economics of real estate. From partition massacres to India's number one, the incredible story of the Milkha Singhs.

And from the streets of Kolkata to national champions, can Indian golf really spread the talent net wider?


INDRAJIT BHALOTIA, HEAD COACH, ROYAL CALCUTTA GOLF CLUB: These kids, they know that either they do this well, or they just go back to caddying or pulling a rickshaw or just back to the slums.



O'DONOGHUE: It's here in Kolkata at the heart of the British Empire that golf in India began. The Royal Calcutta Golf Club stood on what is now the airport five years before the Royal and Ancient was founded.

And it's been here, in what are now more tranquil settings, for more than 100 years.

MAN MOHAN SINGH, CEO, ROYAL CALCUTTA GOLF CLUB: Originally, people had to play here in convoy because of such a dense forest. They had a lot of wildlife. There would be lions, there would be tigers, leopards.

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): The club became the meeting place for those who ran the British Empire in India.

SINGH: This is the only club, outside the viceroy's house, where the king himself came and had a cup of tea.

O'DONOGHUE: It took more than 100 years for the membership to start widening.

SINGH: Well, it was only in the 50s that the first few Indians were taken in, and I would say until 1960, 85 to 90 percent were only expatriates.

O'DONOGHUE (on camera): There are two things that bring out the masses in India, cricket and, obviously, politics. It's a Sunday. It's a mass rally by hundreds of thousands of members of the Communist Party of Marxists, and they just happen to be gathering on the oldest ladies' golf club in the world.

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): Next morning, and a park land in the middle of Kolkata reverts to grazing animals, kickabouts, and Kolkata ladies.

ANUKA DATTA KANUNGOE, FORMER CAPTAIN, CALCUTTA LADIES GOLF CLUB: Since 1891 to 1947, India was under British. So, at that time, most of the captains are lady -- I mean, foreigners of the British ladies or maybe American, I don't know.

But after 47, slowly, slowly, equality started coming to the Indian side, and I think in 1970 or somewhere, you can see on the board the first lady captain, and the lady captain took charge.

O'DONOGHUE: Through most of those years, golf's appeal has been limited in India, with many courses run by the military. But Mrs. Kanungoe now sees things changing.

KANUNGOE: Nowadays, being TV being very popular, and sports -- so many sports channels are showing golfing. Many young girls are taking up more interest in golfing.

O'DONOGHUE: New Delhi. Just as political power in India moved back here in the early 20th century, so golf, too, slowly spread beyond its empire cradle in Kolkata. Many here estimate it's now India's fastest-growing sport.

Here at the DLF Country Club on the outskirts of Delhi, the European Tour is staging an event for the third year. And it's the success of a handful of Indian players on the world stage that's helping to drive increased media coverage of the game.

At a hotel over the road, there's a small symbol of how many companies view India's golfing potential. ISM, who manage Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, and the Masters Champion Schwartzel are launching an Indian office.

CHUBBY CHANDLER, MD, INTERNATIONAL SPORTS MANAGEMENT: I see a big future here, because it's -- I've grown up in a world of golf already there. This is a world of golf that's not here, yet, and we can make it happen.

If you do an academy with 200 or 300 kids over a few weeks playing, 10 20-year-olds may carry on and play. Well, that's probably more than they get here, now.

O'DONOGHUE: And international design companies are also keen to develop in what will soon be the world's most populous country. There are currently only around 200 courses in a nation of 1.1 billion.

GARY PLAYER, WINNER OF NINE MAJORS: I want to do more than put a golf course in India. They have such potential with such a large population. So, we can get a good youth program going, we can develop some good golfers for the Olympics.

And also, let me tell you, India's got a lot of fine, young golfers coming along. It's a dynamic country.

O'DONOGHUE: In fact, it's at the DLF Club in Delhi that Gary Player's company is preparing to build a second course. Over the years, it's been the price and piecemeal ownership of land that's held back course development in India. And it still does.

RANJIT NANDA, GARY PLAYER DESIGN INDIA: Stand-alone golf courses that are membership driven, those are not viable because of the high land cost. So, if the government steps in and provides cheap land or land on lease, that could be a movement which would be very useful for spreading the game.

O'DONOGHUE: These flats next to the DLF club are among some of the most expensive in the Delhi area. It's real estate that's driving course building. Ahmedabad, in Gujarat, 600 miles southwest of Delhi. Industrial, known as the Manchester of the East, and reckoned to be India's fastest-growing city.

There are about 50 courses under construction across the country, and one's here, a Jack Nicklaus design. The appeal is lifestyle.

DEVANG SHAH, DEVELOPER, KALHAAR BLUES & GREENS: On the villa side of development, the land prices get about 25 percent to 40 percent premium, so there's a substantial premium you get for leaving the land open, and you're basically selling views.

O'DONOGHUE: The show house isn't even finished but, remarkably, 450 properties have already been sold and mostly paid for at around $400,000 each.

SHIVAS NATH, GENERAL MANAGER, NICKLAUS DESIGN INDIA: A good golf course, a good lifestyle. And the people there absolutely want that. They've got the money, they've got the affluence.

They want the best, and going forward, it's now to have more academies there, because while all these lovely golf courses do come up, it's very important that you have people interested enough to actually buy memberships to these golf courses, because that's how these golf courses will sustain themselves.

O'DONOGHUE: Back to Delhi, and the only pay and play course in the region.

BRIGADIER VIRENDRA KUMA, SECRETARY, QUATAB GOLF COURSE: All facilities were unavailable here. A person need not, here, only to have a pair of shoes and a cap. Everything is available here.

RAKESH KUMAR, HEAD COACH, QUTAB GOLF COURSE: We have the driving range, we have a bunker practice, we have chipping practice. We have all the latest technology available here, so all kinds of levels of people, they are getting benefited, whether it's a middle class or lower class or upper class.

O'DONOGHUE: It's estimated that India has between 50,000 to 100,000 active golfers. Projections suggest that could rise to between 200,000 and half a million over the next five to ten years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Golf is becoming very popular because people are more ambitious. They want to come up, they are -- they want to play international, this is an international kind of a game.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see a new face every single day on the course, I would say. More Indians, especially, doing well on the PGA tour are making immediate difference in the people. People are encouraging their children to play this sport.

O'DONOGHUE: Social changes, economic growth, and another generation of golfing role models will drive the desire to play. But India's going to need many more public ranges and courses like this if golf really is to become the second national sport. (END VIDEOTAPE)

O'DONOGHUE: Still to come, Jeev Milkha Singh, star of India, son of a sporting icon.


O'DONOGHUE: Welcome back to LIVING GOLF from India. It's now time to hear the remarkable story of the Milkha Singhs, the champion athlete of the 60s and his son, the flag bearer for Indian golf in the present day, Jeev.


O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): This Milkha Singh story begins in the chaos of Partition, in Hindu-Muslim violence and the division of India into modern-day India and Pakistan.

JEEV MILKHA SINGH: Dad had a very tough childhood. India used to be one. And they lived west of India, which is now Pakistan.

MILKHA SINGH (through translator): The kind of hardship I've seen during Partition, you will never understand that. My parents were killed right in front of my eyes. They were murdered right there.

J. SINGH: He was about 16 years old, and he hid in a train in a woman's coach, where women were sitting, he hid in there, and he came to India.

His brother was in the army, Indian army, so he joined the army, and he ran marathons for the army. He ran a marathon, he won. Somebody told him, "Mr. Singh, why don't you try running 400 meters." He ran 400 meters, he won that, too. And then, he won the Commonwealth gold, he won Asian Games gold.

O'DONOGHUE: But for all his subsequent success, Milkha Singh, known as "the Flying Sikh," is best known for a gold he didn't win. He misjudged the pace of the 1960 Olympic final and lost out in a photo finish.

M. SINGH (through translator): That race in which I made a mistake, I can never forget or let go for the rest of my life. I have run 80 international races in my life and won 77, but the Rome Olympics, it was one race I will never forget until I die.

J. SINGH: Growing up, I always heard stories about hard work, discipline, dedication, there are no shortcuts. When I started playing golf, I loved it. I had passion for it.

It used to be 40 degrees, it used to be really hot, Mom used say, "Go to sleep." No, I'm going to go the golf course. I used to go under a tree, and I used to get chips.

M. SINGH (through translator): He was so dedicated that I used to sit with him and practice hitting the ball for six hours a day. His hands would start bleeding.

Sports was in his genes, so he decided he wanted to play golf, but we didn't want him to get into it, and the reason for that was, I had at least six to seven gold medals from Asia. I had Commonwealth gold medal. But in my days, nobody gave you any money, which is why me and my wife decided that we would not let Jeev get into sports. We'd make him an engineer or a doctor.

O'DONOGHUE: But Jeev's success as a junior earned him a college golf scholarship in the United States. In 1993, he called his father from there to tell him he wanted to turn pro. Milkha gave his blessing, now convinced of his determination. And Jeev since won 19 times across Asia and Europe, including the European Tour's flagship event at Valderrama.

J. SINGH: And then after that, I got into the Masters, and as a kid growing up in my hometown, Chandigarh, I always used to joke around with my friends and my caddies, "Oh, guys, this shot is for number 12 hole. This hook's for the number 13th hole," you know? At the Masters.

I used to get recorded tapes, videotapes, which used to come to us after, like, a month. And anybody in town who had that tape was a legend.

I've always dreamt about winning the Masters. So, hopefully, before my golfing career is over, I'll win the Masters.

M. SINGH (through translator): I am very proud. My family's the happiest family in the sports field, because I received the Padma Shri Award in 1958 and Jeev got his Padma Shri Award some two, three years ago for golf. We are the first family in India to have two such titles.

O'DONOGHUE: Jeev's very grateful to his father for giving him the chance to become a tour pro. Now, he hopes that he and his generation of Indian golfers have opened up that opportunity for today's juniors.

J. SINGH: I personally believe golf is the fastest-growing sport in our county today. I think we've changed the mindset of the parents. I was very fortunate. I came from a sporting background and my parents gave me a go-ahead to become a professional golfer. I had a lot of good players playing with me at that time who did not get a go-ahead from their parents.

I think, in another five to ten years, golf in India, the domestic tour, is going to be as big as the Asian Tour. The sky's the limit.


O'DONOGHUE: Jeev Milkha Singh, here, in Delhi.

Now, the Players Championship, the so-called Fifth Major, it's played at the TPC Stadium course at Sawgrass, with its iconic island green at the par-three 17th.

Recently, we spent some time with LIVING GOLF's Martin Kaymer, the winner of the race to Dubai, as he made his final preparations for the biggest event in world golf this month.


O'DONOGHUE: The bunker shot is such a tricky one for all us club amateurs to play and to negotiate. Often, it strikes fear into us when we get in here. But for you, it's a way of life. You need to be good out of the bunkers.

MARTIN KAYMER, US PGA CHAMPION AND WORLD NUMBER TWO: Yes, we need to, and it's my favorite -- my favorite part of the game, to be honest with you. Depends on, obviously, the bunker shots, but it's -- for me, I love to hit shots from the bunker. It's fun.

O'DONOGHUE: Have you spent hours upon hours since you were a kid practicing out of bunkers?

KAYMER: Probably days, you know? I really enjoy hitting bunker shots. To be in the bunker and try things out. I try to figure out my own way, what works for me the best.

O'DONOGHUE: What is the technique that you employ when it comes to playing those shorter explosion shots from the sand?

KAYMER: I have two or three thoughts before I hit the golf shot. Obviously, I try to open the club as much as possible in order to get the height. I also try to lower my hands a little bit. It helps me to get the club more outside inside.

And then, basically, you have to finish the swing. In order to get the spin. If you get stuck in the sand and just stay there, you don't get spin on the ball. All those things increase the height of the golf ball, how it comes out o f the bunker.

O'DONOGHUE: But must your impact be quite soft as well? And is it all about just finishing that particular swing?

KAYMER: For me, in order to get more spin, I need more club head speed. So I try to hit it, and I try to hit it fairly hard.

My coach, he taught me in order to get a little bit more height on the bunker shot, instead of making a normal swing, what I used to do from the bunker, I tried to hinge my wrists a little bit more.

Because when you swing it back, and you swing it back normal without hinging it, it's a pretty standard, neutral club face. But if you hinge it a little bit, it hopes up automatically. That helped me a lot in order to hit the ball a little bit softer.

O'DONOGHUE: Oh, wow. That's how you do it. Do you mind if I just try it?

KAYMER: Yes, go ahead. O'DONOGHUE: Because it's something that I -- I've never been great at.

KAYMER: I think the most important is that you make an open stand. And let's say -- let's say your swing path --


KAYMER: -- should be almost like this way. Very outside-inside.


KAYMER: So now, you have to try and swing exactly on this path, here. I know it feels very awkward, and that's why you have to practice a lot follow shots.

That's good, Shane. It's a very rare shot. It's good to have it, you know?

O'DONOGHUE: You need to have it, don't you?

KAYMER: Well, we need to have it, you know?

O'DONOGHUE: Yes. Because it's all work to you guys.

KAYMER: It's our job.

O'DONOGHUE: It is. I'm glad it's not mine.


O'DONOGHUE: Martin Kaymer, there, getting ready for the Players Championship.

Now, next on LIVING GOLF, India has great golfing stars. Jeev, Arjun, Jyoti, Shiv, and SSP. But is India producing the next generation of players, those who can surpass their current heroes?


O'DONOGHUE: Welcome back to this special edition of LIVING GOLF, looking into the development of the game here in India.

In all those years since the founding of Royal Calcutta back in 1829, this country has only ever really produced a handful of world- class players. However, the prospects for the next generation look very promising, indeed.


O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): It's a gloriously sunny weekend in Kolkata, a city probably better known for missionary work amongst the poor than for the development of elite golfers. But there are clues here to the future of Indian talent.

INDRAJIT BHALOTIA, HEAD COACH, ROYAL CALCUTTA GOLF CLUB: We've had this particular junior program for about seven years, and we started out with about seven kids. Now, we've got, like a hundred- odd, and we can stop taking kids, now.

O'DONOGHUE: Indrajit takes programs across the Kolkata clubs for members' children, juniors from outside the clubs and, for some of the poorer children, from the city.

BHALOTIA: We've got about 30 kids who come from below poverty line. Caddies' kids, a lot of kids who just come from the slums.

And we've had a national champion out of these kids two years back when a boy called Tutul Ali, he won the All-India, and we had a national champion in like 20 years from the East for the first time.

TUTUL ALI, ALL-INDIA JUNIOR CHAMPION 2009: Yes, yes, I won the All-India in 2009.

O'DONOGHUE (on camera): Now, your father was a caddy?

ALI: Yes, my father was a caddy, and he was the apprentice golf fix.

O'DONOGHUE: And he's the man who fixes all the clubs.

ALI: Yes, he fixes all the clubs.

O'DONOGHUE: And what would you like to do now? Would you just like to play --

ALI: We have played good golf up there.

O'DONOGHUE: You'd like to be a pro?

ALI: Yes.

ROHAN SCHROFF, THIRD, EAST INDIA AMATEUR CHAMPIONSHIP 2010: I just finished playing the student amateurs, beat national champion Chikkarangappa, so that was a big thing for me. Future plans, let's see, either go to the States and study, play golf, or just remain in Kolkata and play golf.

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): The Indian Golf Union supports Indrajit's work, here, as part of its zonal or regional coaching program, which reaches 3,000 to 4,000 Indian children. It also trains about 50 new coaches a year.

So, what of the more immediate future? Well, the domestic professional tour has rolled into town just down the road. The first three events of the year have been won by Gaganjeet Bhullar, perhaps the best bet to be the next breakthrough player from India.

GAGANJEET BHULLAR, IDNIA'S NUMBER THREE: A few years back, they only had, like, 10 events, and now, they have, like, full field, 25 events on the PGTA calendar. So obviously, the level of golf and the interest of Kolkata is definitely shifting from tennis or cricket towards golf. UTTAM SINGH MUNDY, PROFESSIONAL GOLF TOUR OF INDIA: We play for approximately 4 million rupees, is an average event.

O'DONOGHUE (on camera): And the dollar equivalent would be what?

MUNDY: About $80,000.

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): Although the prize money is still relatively low, it's enough to be attracting new players, and Uttam Mundy's optimistic.

MUNDY: There are a lot of players that are coming up, and in our qualifying school we have almost about -- close to 250 entries. And players who don't make it onto the main tour for that, last year we introduced a feeder tour that gives them a platform to play on and try to hone their skills so that they can come onto the main tour that we have. A lot of hidden talent in India.

O'DONOGHUE: In fact, India, taking on the might of South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, has won two teen silvers at the last two Asian Games and gold at this year's Junior Asian Championships.

The man in charge of developing this talent says there's now strength in depth.

ABHI PARMAR, DIRECTOR GENERAL, INDIAN GOLF UNION: We have had a national champion two years in a row who is a junior. Chikkarangappa is 16, 17-year-old lad, and he's won All-India Amateur twice back-to- back. And that only shows that the juniors, in terms of caliber, are as good as anybody else.

BHULLAR: I think the level of junior golf is definitely improving, and especially in India, we have a large number of caddy communities. And even if you look at the top juniors, some of them are from the caddy ranks.

O'DONOGHUE: And given current rankings and the signs from Kolkata, it looks like that's where many of the next generation of Indian stars will be coming from.

BHALOTIA: We've got about eight of these caddy boys who are scratch. These guys are much hungrier than kids who come from a good background and they have other options. For these kids, they know that either they do this well, or they just go back to caddying or pulling a rickshaw or just back to the slums.


O'DONOGHUE: Some of those hoping to take Indian golf to another level.

Well, that's it for this edition of LIVING GOLF. On next month's program, we'll be looking ahead to the year's second major championship, the US Open. And don't forget, you can find all our reports online.

From Delhi, it's good-bye.