Had Lt Gen Mian Hilal Hussain been a cricketer, he would have excelled in the Test format. That’s because he has this tendency to think long-term. Since taking over as President Pakistan Golf Federation (PGF), Gen Hilal has mostly taken steps that are aimed at bringing lasting positive changes in Pakistan golf. In an interview with The News on Sunday, President PGF talked about his various plans and expressed his confidence that Pakistan golf was set to make worthwhile progress in the coming years. Following are the excerpts:
“Part of the first six months after taking over as President was spent on understanding the challenges of our golf. It became quite clear to me that we are not throwing up good players because of a lack of proper structure. Players like Ahmed Baig, who has been doing so well in recent times, are self-made. He was not made by PGF. People like Brig Bajwa and his family supported him. It became quite clear to me that we need to have a comprehensive strategy. That’s why I sat down with my team to devise a proper strategy.
We needed to look at different angles. The main tasks were infrastructure, coaching, increasing activities and sending our talented golfers abroad more frequently. I find huge differences in playing conditions between here and abroad. Green speeds, degree of difficulty and lengths are just some of them. These differences overwhelm our players and they find it hard to play to their true potential. In Pakistan we do not have proper courses, the greens are quite bad and the refereeing is also not up to the mark.
The three services are doing a lot for golf now. Pakistan Army has promised to support 10 youngsters every year. The PAF has made a brand new course in Lahore. That is a great addition. Pakistan Navy hosted the Asian Tour event in Karachi. All these are remarkable achievements. What is lacking is the support of civilian corporate bodies. In this I must appreciate Wapda which recently staged the first ever Wapda Golf Championship.
We have taken three major steps that have provided a fillip to golfing activities. The first one is the Jinnah Development Tour. Let me tell you about the professional circuit we have. There are 140 professionals who compete in 12-15 tournaments carrying a prize money of around 25 million rupees. Most of the time it’s a few top players who win the serious money. The money doesn’t flow downwards which was causing some talented players to quit the game for financial reasons. In the West they have tackled this by having separate tours for second tier players. We have done the same by launching the Jinnah Development Tour. The top players cannot take part in it. We have asked all associations to stage one event each. The first event was held in Karachi. A player, M Imran, from Lahore won it. He was beaming and happy for his future when I met him recently Then we had the Punjab leg at the PAF Skyview Club in Lahore which was won by another player. We will have the next event at Mangla.
We have also recentlys launched the Inter-Club match. The thing is that golf clubs are under intense commercial pressure. They are primarily there to cater to the members and are not keen to receive players like ladies kids and seniors who demand concessions in green fees. But after the launch of the Inter-Club match, the clubs will go the extra mile to make sure that they have comprehensive teams with good players in all categories. Golf is certainly growing in Pakistan. The critical mass has been achieved in the country. There was a little bit of controversy in the Sindh leg of the Inter-Club Match but that is a sign that the clubs are taking it seriously. In the next five years or so I think the winning club will be winning Rs 5 million. It will promote rivalry and the clubs will own the players and groom youngsters, junior pros and junior girls.
We all know that infra-structure is a costly affair. There are 47 golf courses in the country. We have formed a committee which will help us in helping the various courses to improve. We will start with courses which are in far-flung areas like this stunning course in Swat. During turmoil, there used to be guns firing at the miscreants from the golf course. We have plans to help rejuvenate such courses including the one in Quetta.
This I must say is my own brainchild. A longest drive competition can help bring more people to golf. Golf is a tough game. It can reject you. There are no serious prizes for high-handicappers. You need to have a longest-drive competition to encourage young players including beginners. Such events are very popular in the West. They are crowd-pulling events. We have done our homework and we will stage our first all Pakistan Open Longest Drive Tournament soon.
GOLF COURSE BY
I recently met golf legend Sir Nick Faldo in Multan. He is designing a signature golf course in Multan. The Army Chief came there to grace the ground-breaking ceremony. With projects like the DHA course in Multan coming up, the future looks good for Pakistan golf. Slowly but surely we are moving forward.
I must say that Pakistan golf desperately needs young blood. My emphasis is on the youngsters. We have started distributing golf sets to youngsters. The idea is to broaden the pool by imparting basic training to young boys and girls. We are sending youngsters abroad to gain vital international experience. We are making endeavours to enhance our financial resources because the federation will need ample funds to carry out our future plans.
My approach is to reach out and be inclusive. There will be no compromise when it comes to developing this sport. My motto is to promote Pakistan golf in an untiring manner. We are in the process of devising a system that can make it an attractive sport for our youngsters. We have to package Pakistan golf in a way that it can attract sponsorship from big corporations. We have to establish golf academies. I know that the challenges facing Pakistan golf are huge but I’m sure that we are taking the right steps towards achieving a better tomorrow for this great sport in Pakistan”.