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The Delhi Golf Club (DGC) in the heart of the national capital has found itself in sticky wicket following caddies and amateur players alleged the club administration of discrimination and practising a culture of favouritism. Two-time Asian Tour-winning golfer Rashid Khan is up in arms with the caddies claiming that they are not being provided with a fair chance to play within the DGC due to their humble backgrounds. The feud that has been going for a considerable period has culminated into Khan not being allowed to enter the premise of the DGC. Speaking to The Bridge, Rashid said "The land of the DGC was given by the government to promote golf as a sport. However, the club is only allowing members to play in the course. There are around 5,000 members, ranging to the age of 65 who play it for their recreation and burning calories. Golf is now an Olympic sport, and it is only professionals like us who can take India to new horizons of world golf." Rashid Khan started his career as an amateur golfer in 2009 and was preparing to take his game to a world stage at the age of 18. He was a member of the Indian contingent that won the Silver medal at the Asian Games in 2010 at Guangzhou, China. Rashid got Asian Tour card in 2012 and twice won the championships at Asian Tour in 2014. Rashid won 4 times on PGTI and was ranked 197th in the world. As he was eyeing a dream for a medal in the Olympics, he feels his wings have been clipped.
Denied entry and practiceImage: News18 In 2012, the DGC stopped allowing caddie-turned-players from practising at the course. In 2016, DGC had brought out notice whereby it directed the professional golfers to practice golf on a limited number of days. "The authorities said that in winters we could practice from 4.45 PM, where a person will get a maximum allotment of five holes. But at this point, we need 18 holes to practice fine-tuning our game which would require at least five hours. But if we tee off at 4.45 at winters, we won't have much time," said Rashid. The golf professionals have been denied practising on weekends. A professional like Rashid was denied even basic and necessary facilities at Delhi Golf Club (DGC) like not allowed to enter the annexe area, canteens, gymnasium, pool, among others. With time, Rashid succumbed to such pressures, and today he stands at 810th rank in the world. Rashid and other fellow golfer took this matter to the government in December 2017, following which the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) had directed the DGC to reserve 10 per cent for professional golfers, which according to Rashid was never taken care of by the club administration. Rashid Khan, who was dreaming of making it to the Top-10 world golf ranking was made to sit outside the gates of DGC, which bore in big fonts, “FOR MEMBERS ONLY”. The directive issued by DGC barring people from playing. In December 2018, with the change in committee, the DGC reintroduced similar restrictions with added notice that only professionals under rank 60 would be allowed. Being under constant harassment, the applicants led by Rashid came on record on 10th January 2019 through a press conference. However, on 12th January, went Rashid went to park his car at DGC premises, a parking guard misbehaved with him. "The guard started arguing and telling me not to park my car. I was parking there for the last eight years. After a heated argument, the security guard slapped me. After two days the club put up a complaint against me to the police saying I had abused the security guard. The police said I wouldn't be allowed in the DGC anymore," said Rashid. He alleges the DGC of cooking dangerous scheme to stop the applicant, i.e. caddy named professional golfers from playing. They have even threatened the applicants and their supporters of severe consequences on the pretext that members of DGC are influential and comprises who's who of the capital, including judges, bureaucrats and politicians.
The guard started arguing and telling me not to park my car. I was parking there for the last eight years. After a heated argument, the security guard slapped me. After two days the club put up a complaint against me to the police saying I had abused the security guard. The police said I wouldn't be allowed in the DGC anymore," says Rashid KhanToday, the applicants suggest that if the DGC wants to run the club the way it is like an elite private club, then the government should immediately demand DGC and all its members should pay the price of the land at the institutional rate. DGC was given public land, worth more than Rs.1.5 Lakh-Crores at a highly concessional yearly lease price of Rs.5 lakh only by Urban Ministry on the condition of “Promotion of Sport of Golf”. There are presently 5,316 listed members of the club out of which 896 are Permanent and remaining are Associate (various categories). Rashid has claimed that after seeing all the discriminations going on, he had applied for membership of the DGC in 2017 but, when The Bridge contacted the latter, they denied Rashid's claim and said he never asked for the membership, for which there is a minimum of 30 years of waiting time. The Bridge further asked one of the authorities of the DGC regarding the accusations made by Rashid Khan, to which they replied that no discrimination of any sort being practised by the club and all the professionals are now able to play in the club. The applicants against the DGC had sent an official letter to the Sports Ministry of India, to which they haven't heard back. "Right now, I am mentally disturbed. My target was Olympics, for which I needed to have a world ranking. But now, I can't even practice in a proper golf course for the past one and a half months," says Rashid. Directive issued by Ministry of Urban Development to the Delhi Golf Club When asked about what other options he has right now, Rashid pointed out that he still can go to Noida for practice. However, the problem is, it will cost him around Rs 3,000 for a session. Coming from a humble background, Rashid cannot pay that massive amount every day for his practice. Looking into the future, Rashid plans to take proper legal recourse soon to fight this battle with the influential DGC. As for DGC, Rashid's claims are not accurate as they say they have taken disciplinary action against him for abusing the guard and flouting rules which are sacrosanct. There seems to be no immediate solution to this scenario as both parties blame each other for complete disinterest in negotiation. While initiatives like 'Khelo India' are giving impetus to the future sports heroes of India, this ongoing feud is taking a toll on Rashid’s golfing future and putting the DGC’s reputation at stake.