Kapil Dev, and his magnificent captaincy in winning the 1983 World Cup, is said to be the seminal moment for Indian cricket and its commercial success. Now 65, the Haryana Hurricane is hoping to do something similar with professional golf in the country as he takes over as president of the Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI).

Kapil Dev with other members of the PGTI. (HT Photo)

A passionate golfer, Kapil was unanimously elected to the position after the previous president H Srinivasan resigned due to personal reasons.

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Kapil was vice-president and member of PGTI’s governing body – as well as host of the Kapil Dev-Grant Thornton Invitational – for the past three years, and felt the time was right for him to step up in the hierarchy.

“The players have often asked me to play a more active role in PGTI, but I thought the time wasn’t right. I understand the commercial aspects of sport, but wasn’t well-versed with the nitty-gritty of professional golf. Srini did an excellent job with PGTI but has stepped down now and I thought I was ready,” Kapil told HT.

“The most important thing for me is that I remain connected to sports. There are so many people who are helping cricket and BCCI. I thought it would be great if I can do something for golf. Cricket is my first love, but golf is a beautiful sport and I have loved its unique challenges ever since I swung the club for the first time. I was asked by the players…and if other people understand and appreciate the value I bring, I am honoured to become their new president.”

Very popular with most professional golfers in the country, Kapil said he has had several chats with them and felt there were two key areas he needed to prioritise.

“The first thing I want to do is increase the number of tournaments. We have about 20 now and I’d want it to be ideally around 30-35. That would be wonderful from a sportsperson’s perspective. Players don’t want to sit idle. You saw with cricket how they were happy just to be able to play during the lockdown even without spectators. Our golfers must also get a schedule like the PGA Tour or the DP World Tour,” said Kapil, a regular invitee to ProAms in some of the biggest tournaments around the world.

“I know a lot of influential people and would like to go to the corporates and say “you spend money on cricket, which is wonderful. I played cricket, and today that game has become so big”. But I would tell them that these golfers, or our hockey and football players, also work equally hard. And these sports are becoming very popular. The Tatas have been great supporters of golf, but I would like to get the Ambanis and the Adanis and the Mahindras into it.

“Athletes have a very short window to make money and I hate it when they worry about finances and about their family once the 15-20 years of playing career is over.

“The other thing I want to do is approach every golf club and request them to open up their facilities for professional golfers. Why should they pay to practice? And many clubs don’t even let the pros play. I don’t want to approach the government for this…they have enough things to take care of. I urge the clubs to embrace the professionals and make things easy for them.”

Though PGTI has an alliance with DP World Tour, Kapil is open to having the Asian Tour return to India and have tournaments.

“It is important if we can bring the European Tour events as well as Asian Tour events here. Having bigger tournaments, prize money and players is wonderful. Having said that, we still need corporate support to bring these tournaments,” said Kapil, who was also on the Asian Tour board for a couple of years in the mid-2000s.

Golf is a rage among former cricketers, and many of them are serious in their pursuit of birdies and eagles, including Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh.

Kapil said he’d be happy to tap that group to help Indian golf grow.

“They are all busy people, so I have to approach them in a different way. I will invite them to play the ProAms in their respective cities. I had requested Dhoni to play my Grant Thornton Invitational and everybody loved him. There are guys like (Ajit) Agarkar, Harbhajan (Singh), Roger (Binny) and many more who love their golf and can help us make the tournaments bigger and better,” he said.