As Chandigarh Golf Club threw open its sprawling greens on Wednesday after relaxation of lockdown guidelines, ace golfer Jeev Milkha Singh said he was excited to have his first swing after two months but predicted no tournaments in the near future. The club was thrown open after the central government announced a slew of relaxations in the fourth phase of the nationwide lockdown. However, barring the golf course, all other facilities like gymnasium and restaurants will remain close.
"I am really glad, this was something different. I am excited to be back on the golf course after two months. I thank God that I was able to play the game I love playing, which has given me recognition, chance to represent my country," Jeev told PTI. "When you have everything, sometimes you don't respect it that much. When you don't get these things, then you realise that this is not there forever, you must respect that. I realise that today."
He said staying home in the last two months due to coronavirus-forced national lockdown taught him not to take things for granted in life. "Had great fun at Chandigarh Golf Club today when I finally played my first round of golf after staying home every minute since March 18," he said. "I used to take golf, and many other things, for granted. Never again. Just need to count our blessings at everything life gives us."
Asked about a time-frame when golf tournaments can restart, he said, "Not in the near future, it depends on country to country, how many cases they are dealing with. It depends on each country's COVID-19 graph, when the borders will open, when international flights will resume. In India, I feel golf tournaments should start by October. In Asia, I can say by September, in USA it starts June end, in Europe in September. Putting everything in a scenario, each country will decide accordingly," he said.
On young golfers who are struggling financially due to lack of tournaments, he said, "It is really tough for the youngsters who are starting out, it's there livelihood, it is there bread and butter. If tournaments are not happening, how will they earn. "But my advice to them is they should practice and work hard, set standards. Be grateful that at least you have golf course to play and practice for the goal and when tournament starts be ready to go and make the most out of it," said Jeev, who last played in a tournament in the Malaysian Open in February.
Meanwhile, club president Sandeep Singh Sandhu said it was for the first time in its six-decades history that the club remained shut for so long. During the militancy days in Punjab in 1980s, the club had remained closed for a week or so. Sandhu said 180 golfers played on Wednesday as against a normal day turn out of 400 to 450. Strict social distancing and other norms have been put in place. Normal gap between one group and other group is eight minutes, which now is 15 minute to ensure social distancing.
The summer tee off timings have been changed from 5:30 am to 7:30 pm to 7:30 am to 6:30pm now. "People were very happy to come back. This is one of the safest sports one can play with social distancing," he said. A sanitization station has been set up by the club where golfers can sanitise their equipment. On every alternate hole, hand sanitisers have been kept.