First Look: Professional Golf Tour of India's Kolkata Classic at the historic Royal Calcutta Golf Club
The event has a host of high profile names with the back-to-back Hero Indian Open champion SSP Chowrasia being the biggest name in the field
The second edition of the Kolkata Classic event kicks off on 21st March at the challenging layout of Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC). The event has a total prize purse of Rs 40 lakh with Rs 6 lakh up for graps for winning the title and Rs 4 lakh for finishing runner up. The tournament will be played from March 21 to 24 with the Pro-Am event scheduled for March 25.
The event has a host of high profile names with the back-to-back Hero Indian Open champion SSP Chowrasia being the biggest name in the field. The local lad returns to RCGC with a freshly renewed winning mindset courtesy of his spectacular seven-shot win at the European Tour’s Hero Indian Open.
Trying to pose a challenge to SSP willl be some of India’s leading professionals such as Asian Tour regulars Rashid Khan (2016 PGTI Order of Merit champion), Chikkarangappa, Mukesh Kumar, Chiragh Kumar, as well as winners from the current PGTI season Ajeetesh Sandhu (2017 PGTI Order of Merit leader), Udayan Mane and Honey Baisoya.
The international challenge will be led by the Sri Lankan trio of Mithun Perera, Anura Rohana and N Thangaraja as well as Australian Kunal Bhasin.
Besides Chawrasia, the field also features other prominent names from Kolkata such as Shankar Das (2014 PGTI Order of Merit champion), former Indian Open champion Feroz Ali Mollah, Divyanshu Bajaj and rookie Viraj Madappa.
This is a 72-hole stroke-play tournament featuring a field of 126 professionals. The cut will be applied after the first 36 holes. The top 50 players and ties will make the halfway cut and continue to play for another 36 holes.
SSP Chowrasia took the time to give us an insight into what has been a whilrlwind couple of weeks ever since he defended his Hero Indian Open crown:
“I’ve had a great start to the season with victory at the Indian Open. It was a very special week for me as I won the coveted title for the second year running. I’m now delighted to be playing at my home course once again.
“I took a break from golf last week and didn’t practice at all. All my friends here at RCGC who watched me win the Indian Open on TV have been reliving the experience with me over the last week by discussing my performance and congratulating me.
“I’m excited about playing the Kolkata Classic. The tournament will go a long way in further promoting the sport in Kolkata. The field is quite strong this year with the likes of Rashid, Chikka and Chiragh participating. All of them have done well on the Asian Tour in the recent past. One can expect a pulsating contest. The RCGC course looks in great shape as always and one will require a good all round game to perform well here.”
Royal Calcutta Golf Club affectionately known as the "Royal" is synonymous with the game of golf in this country. Founded in 1829, Royal is the oldest golf club outside the British Isles. The oldest being the Royal and Ancient, St. Andrews in Scotland, the home of golf. The golfing heritage and history of Royal makes this a truly hallowed place for the game of golf.
Originally located near the Calcutta airport, the club moved to the Maidan and finally to its present location at Tollygunge in 1910. Meant exclusively for the use of gentlemen, ladies were very reluctantly admitted to the club in 1886, when the committee voted 43 against 13 on the condition that female members be allowed to use the course only in the mornings.
The area over which the Royal Calcutta course is laid, was originally paddy fields, and the course is consequently very undulating. Successive committees built mounds and planted thousands of trees and shrubs to enhance the beauty of the property.
However, Royal's conspicuous features are its strategically located water tanks and natural water hazards. Greens at Royal are quite large by modern standards and their undulations make them tricky. The par fours and long and challenging to score on where approach shots require long and medium irons to be hit which test the skills of all the golfers.
No records are available until 1874. However, thereafter all records have been preserved especially Cups, Medals and Trophies that were presented to and exchanged between the Royal and Golf Club of Madras, Bangalore as well as other clubs abroad. One of the notable ones being the Silver Cashmere Cup presented to the Royal and Ancient, St. Andrews in 1885.
In one of the minutes dated 8th February, 1876, it is recorded that the winner of the Royal Blackheath Medal was awarded a cup valued Rs. 25/- and a golf set priced at Rs. 9/-. The expenses for running the club were Rs. 720/- as salaries for staff for twelve months, Rs. 100/- for sundry expenses and the estimated stock of liquor at the closing of accounts was Rs. 200/- which must have represented quite an extensive stock of liquor in the cellar.
The Maidan Pavilion was opened sometime in January, 1885 and a fine bowling green was laid down in 1887. The first Amateur Golf Championship of India was held at the Royal during Christmas time in the year, 1892 with players from Ceylon, Burma, Penang and Singapore taking part. While the registered office of the Club continues to be at the Maidan, the work on the course at the present location, started in 1908 and all 18 holes were opened for play in 1912. Membership of the Club stood at 420 in 1892, 1770 in 1931 and stands at over 2900 today.
A milestone in the Club's history was the election of the first Indian Captain Kamal Kumar Mitra Esq. in the year 1963. Royal, being the first golf club in India, is where the game of golf was introduced and started in the country. Royal has encouraged the local lads working as caddies to become some of the best professionals in the country. Apart from this Royal has produced some of the finest amateurs and professional golfers in India.
Royal is essentially a golf club and has maintained that character over the years. A substantial effort has been put in over the last decade to enhance the course both on the design and beautification fronts and now Royal is considered to be one of the finest golf courses not only in India but also in Asia. The par 72 course is long and challenging for both the amateurs and professionals alike.
The Royal has been a very popular venue for many prestigious amateur and professional events including our very own Indian Open. Many a renowned International golfers have walked the fairways of Royal – the most significant ones being – Walter Hagen, Pamela Barton, Peter Thompson, Payne Stewart, Charles Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen amongst others.
2016 – Shubhankar Sharma
Alcove and LIC are the Associate Sponsors of the Kolkata Classic 2017. The Official Partners of the tournament include Flamingos, Halmari, Oak Gallerie and Veeba. Balaji Ads is the Outdoor Media Partner.
Mr. Uttam Singh Mundy, CEO, PGTI, said, “The Kolkata Classic provides us an ideal platform to further grow professional golf in the city of Kolkata which has over the years produced numerous players of international repute. The presence of big names in the field such as newly-crowned Indian Open champion SSP Chawrasia, Rashid Khan and Chikkarangappa make for an exciting week of golf. We wish the players all the best.”
Mr. Yashaswi Shroff, Director of Alcove Realty, the Associate Sponsors of the tournament, said, “The tournament is a great platform for young golfers for boosting their game and to make them more competitive. They get an opportunity to play with ace golfers such as SSP Chawrasia and Rashid Khan and their likes. The handsome prize purse on offer is a great incentive for the golfers."