On Saturday, while some of India’s top-ranked golfers fought their way in the Second Jeev Milkha Singh Invitational Championship at Chandigarh Golf Club, the 7,202-yard long course also saw ambassadors to India from six countries and their staff playing in the Allena Invitational Golf Tournament at the 18-hole golf course later in the day. The contingent, which consisted of 15 Ambassadors to India from countries like Iceland, Kenya, Fiji, Georgia, Belarus and Kenya, was in Chandigarh and cheered for the six Ambassadors and their staff, as they tackled the fairways and greens at the Chandigarh Golf Club. Willy K Bett, Kenya’s Ambassador to India emerged as the winner.
“Earlier we had organised the first edition of Embassy of Vietnam Ambassadors Cup in Delhi and this is the first time that we have come to play at Chandigarh Golf Course. The course here has its own beauty and is also very forgiving in terms of some of the holes. It is also very challenging if one does not know how to manage the course and we will come again to play at this course. In Vietnam, there are 40 golf courses and we are also trying to get a Ladies PGA tour event. Since now we have a direct flight to Vietnam from India, we hope more golfers will visit Vietnam to play golf,” said Pham Sanh Chau, Vietnam’s Ambassador to India, who finished third.
For Yogesh Punja, Fiji’s Ambassador to India, the course at the Chandigarh Golf Club posed a new challenge. A former hockey player, Punja started playing golf a few years ago and counts himself still a novice on golfing circles. The island country has got 15 golf courses and some of the golf clubs in the country are managed by the city councils, an idea which Punja feels will encourage more public and also portray cities as tourist destination.
“Chandigarh Golf Course is a very challenging course and the fact that it is a tree-laden course makes it more challenging. In Fiji, we have 15 golf courses. Former world number one golfer Vijay Singh belongs to Fiji and he started as a caddie. I have heard that in India, some of the caddies have become top-ranked golfers and it is good for the game. In Fiji, some of the golf courses are managed by city councils and golf courses are also a way to increase tourism. Golfers from Japan, Australia and New Zealand come to play in Fiji. Last year Indian golfer Gaganjeet Bhullar won the Fiji Open and we hope more Indian golfers will visit Fiji to play,” said 64-year-old Punja. Archil Dzuliashvili, Georgia’s Ambassador to India and Dato Paduka Sidak Bin Ali, Brunei’s Ambassador to India, who finished second, too played on the course.
Gudmundur Arni Stefansson, Iceland’s Ambassador to India too liked the course. “In Iceland, we have 60 golf courses and golf is played for nine months in an year except for the winters. We play golf 24X7 as tourists come and play golf in midnight sun too. Here in India, weather is different and a challenge. But the quality of golf courses are very good,” said Stefansson.
Chandigarh Golf Club president Sandeep Sandhu (Bobby) believes such visits will encourage tourism too. “Luckily, all the Ambassadors played when the PGTI championship was happening and the course was in best condition. We hope there are more visits and Chandigarh also emerges as golfing destination,” said Sandhu.