In Asian Games 2010, golfer Rahul Bajaj along with compatriots Rashid Khan, Abhijit Singh Chadha and Abhinav Lohan won the team silver in Golf at Guangzhou, China. Since Golf was inducted in the Asian Games roster in 1982, India has picked up a total of six Asian Games medals (three Golds and Silvers each) in Golf.
Like many State Governments reward their athletes for excellence in sports, Uttar Pradesh (UP) Govt too rewards the meritorious sportspersons who are natives of UP and have won medals in international events like Olympics, Asian Games, or Commonwealth Games.
Being a native of the UP state (Noida), golfer Rahul Bajaj is entitled for a Gazetted Officer job in the UP Govt. But the offer letter has eluded him since his Silver in 2010.
While the UP Govt. job has been a long wait, Bajaj has not lost hope. The Bridge spoke the 31-year-old golfer from Noida. Excerpts:
Do you get any financial support from a corporate/PSU/Govt. Authority?
No, unfortunately there has been no financial support. Whatever I earn from playing, is what I put back into my game ‘ to play the next event, go for the Asian Tour qualifiers or play the mini Tour events in South Asia. I do, pretty much, all of it through whatever I earn.
I have tried to get support from the UP Govt which is due to the fact that I am an Asian Games medalist. The UP Govt had promised me a job in 2011, which I am entitled to as a medalist in 2010 Asian Games. This would have actually helped me cover up a lot, especially my basic expenses. But, nothing has come through unfortunately. I have tried my level best for all these years but the govt has not been supportive.
What has been the roadblock with the UP Govt?
What I am usually told is that the govt has changed. Essentially, that is the answer. The unfortunate truth is that even though you play for the country, the authorities take a lot of time to honour their promise.
The other issue is that you are made to run from one department to the other, one minister to the other and nothing really comes through. Running behind the authorities leaves us helpless, at times. No knowing if we earned it or are just asking.
Did you get any financial reward from the UP Govt?
Yes, I did get a reward of Rs 8 Lacs. But, having said that, it is nothing compared to what couple of other States do, like, Haryana and Punjab. The kind of rewards they give is something completely different. In fact, Haryana govt is really prompt in even giving the job.
Though I have waited really long, I am not giving up.
How easy or difficult is it to get sponsorship for PGTI golfers outside Top 20?
To be honest, there are very few places where sponsorships happen. There is a company which has been very forthcoming to help out budding professionals ‘ Take Solutions from Chennai. They have five to six players on board.
But outside the Top 20 bracket of PGTI, it is very difficult. If I am to go by numbers, then, I think, there will be just two players out of 50 who would be sponsored.
According to you, what can be done to change this scenario?
For starters, there has to a little bit of corporate as well as public interest in the sport. And personally, I have gone through this for a couple of years now. I feel that you need to step it up on the Indian Tour, save your money, go to the Asian Tour qualifying and try to make it there. It may take about five to eight years to establish yourself.
Tell us your experiences with potential sponsors.
Well, I have approached some people personally, although not much has come to fruit out of that. I have focused most of my energies towards getting the govt job as it was promised to me. The UP Govt’s sports website says even a National medalist should be getting a govt job. Asian Games is three notches above that.
I have also been in talks with some agents but nothing much has worked out. There are very few companies like Hero, Take Solutions that step up and help out budding players.
Do you see growth in sponsorships for PGTI golfers?
It’s very hard to say, but hopefully, as the game has been growing at a very fast rate in the country, we may get to see some growth. Especially, in terms of junior golfers and the golfers who are making it big on the international Tours, with all that happening, I think there is definitely a chance of new sponsorships to emerge. But, as of now, it would be difficult to say anything.
Does PGTI provide any sort of assistance to players for acquiring sponsorship? Especially the ones who are caddie-turned-pros?
PGTI is a governing body for professional golf in India. Their job, primarily, is to get sponsors on board for the Tour. Assisting players in finding sponsorships, is not under their purview.
Tell us your concluding thoughts on the economics of Indian Golf from a player’s perspective.
If we go simply by how it works out in India, a tournament would cost you about 35-40k to play. In Asia, the cost goes up to 80k for a tournament and this is an average cost, which could go even higher.
If we talk about the finances, you got to be in the Top 30 or so, on the PGTI, to be able to cut corners.
From a player’s perspective, the Indian Tour is the stepping stone. You hone your skills here and then go on to play other Tours in Asia and then, try and qualify for Japan, Europe or even PGA. But, coming from India, the transition to get on to the bigger Tours is slow. There are only a few players who just go there and make it. The rest of them have to spend, like I said earlier, five to eight years to establish themselves and then move out from here.
On the PGTI, Rahul Bajaj played 18 events in season 2017 and made cut in 14 with two Top 10 finishes. With total earnings of little over Rs 11 lacs, Bajaj finished at 26th spot in the Order of Merit.