Unlike cricket, India has yet to make its mark on the international golfing stage. The sport is often associated with privilege, luxury and skill and isn’t easily accessible to many aspiring youngsters who wish to pursue golf professionally. However, the sport is growing rapidly in the country and it appears to be only a matter of time before India begins to showcase their talent in the biggest competitions in the world and make its mark against the best.
In this exclusive interview, golf coach Tarun Sardesai speaks about his journey as a player to a coach, development of Indian golfers, overcoming challenges, helping aspiring golfers compete at the highest level, his vision for golf in India and his future goals.
Q 1) How were you first introduced to golf and what motivated you to train the next generation of Indian golfers?
I started golf in order to follow in my father's footsteps. I was hooked onto the game and being a natural sportsman I became fairly good in a short span of time. Unfortunately in those days we did not have access to great coaches and mentors and through my journey I was not able to reach a level where I could be competitive in the professional arena. My guru Mr Donato Di Ponziano advised me to take up coaching as he felt that I would be good at it. I took his advice and did my coaching certification in 2003 and the rest is history.
Q 2) According to you, what will it take for an Indian golfer to reach the level of Rory McIlroy or Tiger Woods?
I think that the way golf is perceived in the country needs to change and the sport needs to receive more support. If our players are supported at the right time in their careers with access to a lot of international exposure, then it will prepare them to be able to compete with the best in the world. Unfortunately many of our talented players never get to compete much internationally due to that lack of funds and that then causes a stagnation in their performance and they are unable to compete and win on the international stage.
Q 3) What are the biggest challenges that golfers in India face in order to turn professional? How can those challenges be rectified?
The biggest challenge that our golfers face is the lack of financial support. Golf is an expensive game and for a golfer to be competitive locally and internationally, it requires a lot of investment. From travel to training to equipment a golfer is always feeling the pressure of not being able to cope with the demands. This in turn also then makes them cut corners and not have the best team working with them. It is unfortunate but this also affects the players confidence levels and they are unable to reach their potential.
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Q 4) How is your academy grooming aspiring golfers to be competitive at the global stage?
One of the biggest hurdles for any young sportsperson has been the blend of education and sport. With the help of our education team Pros+E (Professional Sports and Education) which is headed by 3 visionaries Mr Mahesh Rao, Mr Sanju Nair and Mr Kishore Shanbaug, we have been able to do just that. With a schooling system that supports all our players, they are able to focus on their sport and at the same time get a very good education. Apart from that we have put together a holistic training system with Golf, Education, Nutrition, Sports Science and Sports Psychology, all available on the same campus. This way the players do not lose time travelling from home to school etc. They are able to shorten the learning curve and improve much faster.
Q 5) What do you envision to be the future of golf in India?
Golf is growing at an alarming rate and I believe that India will become a powerhouse in the sport in the coming years. Once we are able to bring in the funding from the government as well as corporations, the sky's the limit. I believe that in the future we will have players on every major tour in the world. I also believe that we will have a major champion in the next 15 years.
Q 6) What are your future goals for your golf academy and how are you working towards making those ambitions a reality?
My immediate goal for my academy is to have a corporate partner. This will help us in funding deserving players and get them the best training and facilities to go out and win Olympic Medals and Major golf championships. This year we are having our inaugural TSG Invitational Golf Tournament where we will be inviting 120 top CXOs to play and support our cause. The idea is to raise money and build a corpus to be able to make our future goals a reality.