For renowned golfer Shiv Kapur, Chennai was where his professional career started and he recently returned along with fellow players to give something back to the city.
Moved by the floods which ravaged the Tamil Nadu capital, 23 top golf players in the country came together on Saturday at the Gymkhana Golf Club, Guindy, to raise funds for flood relief.
The group organized both the PRO-AM tournament as well as an auction of Ryder's Cup hospitality passes to raise money for the floods. Chess Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand offered two signed chess boards while participants of the US Presidents Cup came up with a signed poster.
Two of the players – Anirban Lahiri and Shiv Kapur – said they were very excited to be part of an effort such as this.
Madras Round Table 1 organized the PRO-AM Golf Tournament – a game between professionals and amateurs – for Chennai relief funds. It was played in a Texas Scramble format with a professional player and three amateur players in a team competing against others for the championship.
"In the world of sports if we can come together and do something for charity, that is great. It is partly for flood relief and partly for schools. I am always up to come together for a good cause," said Kapur, who won the gold in the 2002 Asian Games in Korea.
He added that Chennai attaches a nostalgic value to his game. "I won my first tournament at this golf course. So for me to come and give back something, it means a lot," he said.
For Anirban, who is ranked the No. 1 golf player in Asia and 38 in the world, the event is special because of the cause. "We look forward to opportunities to contribute and make a difference. We play the whole year for ourselves and we rarely get a chance to help others. So for me personally, it is one such opportunity," he said.
Asked about when they started playing golf and who their inspiration was, Kapur said, "I started playing golf because of my dad. I was nine years old, my father was my inspiration."
Kapur got an opportunity to represent India for the first time at the age of 13. After that, there was no looking back for him.
Coming from an army family, Anirban Lahiri started playing golf at the age of eight. "I have been playing for the past 20 years now. I just started the game for the fun of it. I used to play in all the army courses in the beginning," Anirban said.
Talking about how the game of golf has changed in the past few years, Shiv Kapur was quick to say that it was called an "old man’s game". "After Tiger Woods came into the picture making it athletic, it has got that young and athletic image to it," he said.
"Earlier people used to keep asking me the same question, 'I know you play golf but what you do for a living?' Now people understand what we do and follow us," said Shiv.
Anirban also thinks there has been a massive growth in the game. "When I was in my teens, there were hardly any teens playing golf. But now a lot of people are playing it. It has improved a lot," he said.
Puneet Gupta, a member of the Round Table said, "We are also golfers. We have six professional golfers in total of 22 members. While we were playing, we thought why not bring professional players and play with them."
He added, "We are a social organization. We have been supporting schools to construct toilets and classrooms. And when Chennai floods happened we saw there is a requirement. We then thought why not use the money for helping people for flood relief."