The first time Jamal Badshah met Siddikur Rehman was several years ago in Chandigarh. Both of them were attending a teaching course conducted by Royal and Ancient (R&A) at the Indian Golf Academy. JB, as he is known among his peers and students, had seen Siddik hitting golf balls on the range and was impressed by his swing.
“I asked him ‘why are you wasting your time attending such courses as there is no future for golf coaches in our part of the world’. I told him that having seen him playing golf, I was convinced that provided he worked hard, he had a good future as a golf pro,” JB said in an interview with ‘The News on Sunday’.
“I told him to go home and train harder because it was pretty clear that he had all the skills and talents needed to become a good professional. He appreciated my advice.
“In the next two years, Siddik rose to not only become the number one golfer in Bangladesh but also one of the top in the region,” he added.
The last time JB saw Siddik was on a TV screen in Michigan last month as he sat with his mostly American buddies and students. He was there as a full-time golf coach and was watching the golf event of the Olympic Games in Rio. Siddik was in Rio representing Bangladesh.
“All of them asked me why is that there is no Pakistani golfer in the Olympics,” he said. “The question gave me a sleepless night. Over the years I have worked so hard as a coach in my country but unfortunately due to a variety of factors neither of our players has managed to make his presence felt at the international level.”
JB is of the view that with proper policy Pakistan golf could have progressed by leaps and bounds.
“We have wasted players like Shabbir Iqbal. We have wasted our talent,” says JB, referring to the Pakistan No. 1 golfer from Islamabad, who has been unable to establish himself as a pro outside of Pakistan.
“Shabbir is an exceptional talent. Had he been born in a country like USA, Shabbir would be among the top-20 golfers of the world. But our authorities did very little to capitalize on his talent.”
Just like Siddik, Shabbir also hails from a modest background. Siddik’s father was a rickshaw driver and his family lived in a Dhaka slum. He spent his childhood retrieving stray balls on the course of the prestigious Kurmitola Golf Club.
Today, with sheer hard work and a generous support from his Club and sponsors, Siddik is a leading pro who has earned the honour of being the first Bangladeshi to qualify automatically for the Olympics.
“A player gets the heart of a lion if he is fully backed by his club and his sponsors. Siddik was lucky to have that kind of support. Unfortunately, players like Shabbir aren’t that lucky,” laments JB, who recently returned home after completing his fourth consecutive stint as a visiting coach at Tanglewood, a sprawling 27-hole golf facility near Detroit.
JB is a popular coach at the Tanglewood Golf Academy where newcomers almost always find it surprising to have a coach from Pakistan around.
While JB is happy to have found greener pastures in the US, which is regarded as the heartland of golf, he remains concerned about the fact that the growth of the sport has more or less stunted in Pakistan.
“In the good old days, we had players like Ejaz Ahmed, Muhammad Shafiq, Mehmood Hussain, Ghulam Nabi, Taimur Hussain and now we have the likes of Shabbir and Muhammad Munir. But I don’t see any newcomers who can play like they did. The standard has gone down instead of going up.”
JB said that over the years he has pleaded with a lot of top executives and other important personalities to support players Shabbir. “But nobody listened and now we don’t have any presence at the international despite having talented players like Shabbir.”
At the amateur level, JB remembers the skills and talents exhibited by his one-time student Ali Hai, who went on to win national and international titles.
“He (Ali) should have become a pro,” says JB.
Now, JB has turned his attention towards training coaches.
His emphasis is currently on preparing his own son – Salman Badshah – as a top class coach.
“Salman hasn’t played top class golf but it is not necessary for a good coach to be a top pro. He is educated and hard working and has been teaching some of my junior students for the last five years. I am teaching him how to use modern means like software and other stuff to teach young players. I am sure that he would go on to become a good coach and help me realize my dream of producing world-class players for Pakistan.”