‘Lanka will soon emerge as golfing destination’

When Krrish Colombo, the only overseas team in the ongoing Louis Philippe Cup took to the greens, there were doubts if the debutants from Sri Lanka would be able to challenge the eight other Indian teams, having some of the country’s biggest names in their ranks.
The team comprising N. Thangaraja (12th on PGTI list in 2013), K. Prabhagaran (15th on PGTI list) and Indian pick Himmat Rai showed their mettle on Thursday and stunned many by qualifying for the semi-finals.
It turned out to be a productive day for golfers from the island nation as Mithun Perera, playing for Navratna Ahmedabad, equalled the course record when he sizzled with a eight-under 62.
The performance of Sri Lankan golfers is a reflection of their emerging presence on the pro tour. On the PGTI Order of Merit list, the trio feature among the top seven golfers while Anura Rohana is ranked 12th.
“We suffered a lot due to unrest and conflicts in Sri Lanka but now things have settled down. We have four players on the PGTI tour and within two years, Sri Lanka will emerge as a golfing destination,” said Perera, the first Lankan player to get an Asian Tour card.
While two of the biggest golf courses in Sri Lanka, the Royal Colombo Golf Club and the Nuwara Eliya were set up a century ago in 1879 and 1888 respectively, professional golf never picked up.
“We struggled for representation earlier as mostly only members and their kids played but they never took it seriously. Our first pro event was held only last year,” explained Mithun, whose famous father-cum-coach Nandsena missed out on the Asian Games gold after losing in the play-off.
Prabagaran,33, who first started playing golf with branches of coconut trees when he accompanied his grandfather, caretaker of the Nuwara Eliya course, said the sport was now gaining popularity.
“Golf is now a popular sport back home. We have three more upcoming golf courses and the Army too have their courses.
“We plan to have six-seven tournaments this year and it will generate lot of interest,” said Prabagaran.
Perera too believes that is important for the Lankan players to do well on the pro tour.
“People are now learning that golfers can make money too. They see that we are earning well.
“At amateur level, you don’t earn anything but as a pro you make money. We now have members coming forward to help. We will keep getting more support if we keep doing well,” he said.

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