When you hear the world ‘golf’, the first thing that probably comes to your mind is a bunch of filthy rich corporate honchos strolling leisurely on a lush green course, alternating between taking emphatic swings at the ball with their 9-irons and laughing indulgently at their cashmere-n-caviar jokes. What you don’t picture is a group of passionate, driven individuals squeezing every last second of their time in their bid to develop the sport and raise funds for the needy.
It’s time to change that perception. Meet N R K Raman and V Illavarasan, two of the six founders of the Bangalore Golf Foundation. The group aims to organize golf tournaments in different parts of the city, and use the proceeds for the welfare of caddies and maintenance personnel involved in the sport. It’s a noble cause alright, and one that you wouldn’t normally associate with a rich man’s game like golf. But no matter how much we enjoy stereotyping certain sports, there can always be instances every now and then that break convention and surprise us, can’t there?
What started merely as a way to enhance the fun and competitiveness quotient in their everyday golf games has now turned into something infinitely more credible. Raman admits that when he and the five other founders first started talking about the initiative around nine months ago, all they had in mind was conducting a few games of golf that had actual prize money and participation from golf enthusiasts outside their circle of friends. That changed rather quickly, though.
“We came from such different backgrounds – construction, hospitality, etc. – but we had one thing in common: love for golf. So we figured: while enjoying the competitiveness and professionalism that holding a golf tournament would bring, why not give something back to the game as well?” Raman reminisces.
Conducting city-wide golf tournaments was always high on the agenda of the group. But another thing that was always on the radar was the fact that the oft-forgotten individuals in the golfing ecosystem – the caddies and the maintenance personnel – deserved their fair share of attention too.
The number of people acting as caddies and undertaking maintenance tasks is a lot higher than you would expect. For instance, the Karnataka Golf Association course at Domlur alone employs close to 400 caddies, in addition to hundreds of gardening and course maintenance personnel. And while these people might be working in a cash-rich and glamorous industry, they are not immune to the financial problems that are currently plaguing the working class in the country.
With that in mind, Raman, Illavarasan and their co-founders set up the Bangalore Golfers Trust along with the umbrella foundation organization. The main purpose of this trust is providing assistance to the caddies and maintenance personnel plugging away thanklessly in the city’s golf environment. This assistance is given in the form of group medical insurance coverage, guidance counselling, free health check-ups, educational fees and scholarships, emergency financial assistance in case of accidents, and other similar methods.
How does all of this work, though? If the foundation’s golf tournament conducted recently at the Champion Reef course is anything to go by, it’s a simple matter of, not necessarily give-and-take, but more like take-enjoy-give.
The event, held on the 1st of September, attracted participation from as many as 56 golfers, which is the maximum number that the 9-hole course at Champion Reef (or any 9-hole course, really) could hold. Each of these golfers had to pay a registration fee which, along with the amount pumped in by the sponsors, made up the prize money purse.
But it wasn’t just the cash prizes that the proceeds were used for. At the end of the event, the foundation members announced that the funds raised would be used towards reimbursement of the educational expenses incurred by two girl children – one, the daughter of a caddie, and another, the daughter of a maintenance employee. This assistance would be provided until the two girls, who are both currently studying in the fifth standard, completed their 10th standard exams.
How were the two girls identified? There was a systematic process overseen by the organizers of Champion Reef, through which the people who wanted to be considered for the financial assistance sent in their applications. The applications were then carefully evaluated, and after a thorough and objective analysis, the two most deserving candidates were selected.