BY DEBAYAN MUKHERJEE
Kolkata, May 26 (IANS) Rashid Khan, India’s leading professional golfer, on Sunday said he is ready to quit the sport if the Delhi Golf Club (DGC) continues to deny him crucial practice time ahead of the Tokyo Olympics qualification.
Delhi-based Rashid, who is currently ranked No. 1 on the PGTI Players’ Championship, and nine other professional/amateur golfers were taken to the Tughlaq Road police station in Lutyen’s Delhi after they complained of the DGC staff not allowing them to enter the premises for practice.
The development is part of a long-standing tussle between Rashid and the DGC over the latter’s refusal to allow him to practice at the 18-hole course.
“If I don’t get justice, I will leave golf. I might stop,” Rashid told IANS over phone.
“My dad has opened something and I will join him. We have a drill machine and I will help him with that. I don’t think yaha pe (here) I will get justice,” the winner of two Asian Tour titles said.
“I will wait till this year, if it doesn’t get sorted out, I don’t know what I will do. I might have to leave Delhi and go back to Lucknow where I have grown up. We have a golf course in Lucknow but that is not a championship golf course. This way how can I continue?”
Ranked 296 in world golf ranking, Rashid needs to play out of his skin in the next four to five months to try and make the cut for the Olympics. But according to the 28-year old caddie-turned-player, he has been practising on wastelands for the past five months hence his preparation is anything but ideal.
“I am 296 right now in world golf ranking. But if I don’t get golf course to practice, where I am going to be? I was at 800 something, I got back to 296. I have more tournaments coming up which are important and I have to do well to get a world ranking point, but what I will do?
“The deadline (for Olympic qualification) is October or November. I need maybe 20-25 points more from the remaining tournaments to qualify. In winters, you can hit a ball anywhere you want to, but in summers it’s very difficult. I am not allowed to use anything inside DGC premises. I have played there for 19 years without even using the washroom!” said Rashid.
“For the past five months, I have been practising on a wasteland area. Once in a week, to play a 18-hole I had to go to Noida which is 25 km from my place. If I get entry to practice in DGC, which is two kilometer from my house, it will be easier for me. But DGC is a private golf course as per them. They need to give us in writing that this can be used only by members,” he further said.
Rashid alleged that in the DGC committee, there are two members who are well versed with Rashid’s exploits, but would still not help.
“The DGC committee members know very well who I am. The worst part is, there is a member who has got a PGTI card. His name is Arjun Singh. He is a professional golfer. There is another guy who has been an amateur for his whole life, Gagan Verma. It’s disgusting.”
Rashid said they have a case going on in the Delhi High Court regarding this for months, but since the judges are also DGC members, they are dilly-dallying the matter for vested interest.
“We have our case going on in the High Court also. There have been five-six hearings. But the judges are members of the Delhi Golf Course so they can’t even hear the case.
“They also push the date back. Last hearing took place on April 22. The judge did not even listen, saw the file and gave us a date of November 18. My lawyer tried to get an earlier date but to no avail,” he alleged.
“Because of all this, I missed my Asian Tour cut. If you’re playing on Asian Tour, you are spending 30-35 lakh a year. And if you are making nothing out of it, it’s gone,” rued the 2010 Asian Games silver-medallist.
Rashid, who has a two-month break now, will take part in the Take Solutions Masters Golf Tournament in Bengaluru in August.
On Saturday, Rashid and the other fellow golfers were made to wait for almost four hours at the police station before his lawyer came and they could leave.
“At the (DGC) gate, they (officials) did not allow us to enter. They said we need to ask the committee if you guys are allowed to practice. I have a ruling of the Supreme Court where DGC has written that anyone can come, pay fees and practice at their greens. They still did not allow us. I called the police then.
“Police came and they were like ‘gaadhi mein baitho aur chalo (sit in the car and come with us)’. Police said we do the same everyday. We were taken to the police station. They were very aggressive with us. They did not take any FIR and were unwilling.
“I contacted my lawyer and he came at around 6:30 p.m., then they allowed us to go,” explained Rashid.
In January this year, Rashid had accused the DGC of discrimination, which, he said, was ruining careers of golfers like him coming from humble backgrounds.
In 2012, he said the DGC stopped allowing caddie-turned-players from practising at the course, one of India’s most iconic and which is located at the heart of Lutyens’ Delhi.