Jamal Hossain Mollah does not come across, at first sight, as one who is full of confidence. Short and thin, he walks shyly and blinks his eyes with childlike curiosity. But when he speaks, he speaks volumes. He does not like to hold back his emotions and frustrations, when it comes to his passion and profession -- golf.
Jamal is arguably the second best golfer in Bangladesh right now. He has been pretty consistently successful in the PGTI (Professional Golf Tour of India) for the last three seasons, while peers like Shakhawat Hossain Sohel, Dulal Hossain, Rezaul Karim have fallen by the wayside. After finishing the 2012 season in 24th position, Jamal had made it his aim to finish in the top ten last season and he is more than happy with what he has done.
“I am very confident right now, because I had targeted a top-ten spot in the PGTI last season and ended up in seventh place. Even though it could've been better had I won a tournament, I am satisfied with my performance,” says Jamal while talking after a local golf event at the Kurmitola Golf Club recently.
Jamal's rise to success has followed a similar path to that of Siddikur Rahman. Like Siddikur, Jamal too was brought to the Kurmitola Golf Club at a tender age and honed his golfing skills while working as a ball boy. But Jamal feels he and his peers haven't had the same sort of patronage that Siddikur received.
“I feel the difference between Siddikur and the rest of us is very little,” Jamal says. “If you have money in your pocket, you will play well. Since Siddikur was the first amongst us to do well, he got the backing from all quarters. He had a big sponsor from early on. For us, it's not the same. Even though I am a bit lucky that I have a sponsor who gives me enough to cover my family expenditure, the others are not that lucky.”
For Jamal, and the 40-something other professional golfers in Bangladesh, most of whom started as either ball boy or caddie, being successful is the first and foremost prerequisite to be able to continue playing. These boys came from desperately poor families and have not learnt any other traits apart from playing golf, where success begets money, and the lack of it makes you lose all that you have.
“The problem for us is when we go to play for an event in the PGTI or the Asian Tour, we have to be always conscious about the expenditure. There is the constant worry that if we fail to make the cut, we lose all the money that we invested as entry fee, caddie fee, accommodation and air fair. We have families back home to support. You are constantly reminded that if you do not do well, you will have to return empty-handed and look for money to play another tournament. It is hard to do well like that,”
There are a number of golf events which are held by the BPGA round the year and there are a number of corporate houses that sponsor these events. These tournaments do reward the good players, but that reward is minimal to say the least. All that Jamal and his fellow golfers plead for is the assurance of playing and the patronage of the corporate houses so that they can play without having a world of worries on their mind.
Jamal will be going for the Asian Tour Qualifiers in Thailand next month and he says he will invest the amount he earned from PGTI last season (around 20 lakh rupees), with the hope that he makes it to the big league. But will that be a big gamble for him without the backing of a big corporate house? Only time will tell.