Bangladesh national team golfers have been spending a busy time at the Kurmitola Golf Club for the last three months. They are training to emulate what their predecessors had achieved nine years ago.
Golf was included in the South Asian Games roster for the first time in the 11th South Asian Games in Dhaka in 2010. Hosts Bangladesh made a clean sweep in the individual event while taking the gold in the team event. Dulal Hossain, Shakhawat Hossain Sohel, Zamal Hossain Mollah and Jakiruzzaman made the country proud by winning four medals, including two golds, during that competition.
Amateurs at the time, Dulal, Zamal, Sohel and Jakir have since turned professionals and won many a tournament at home and abroad. The onus has now shifted to a new generation of amateurs to fly the red and green flag as golf returns to the SA Games, which will be held in Nepal from December 1 to 10, after being dropped in the last edition in India three years ago.
Mohammad Farhad, Shafique Bagha, Liton Mondol, Mohammad Suman, Shahab Uddin, Sonia Akter, Nasima Akter, Liza Akter and Zakia Sultana are the nine golfers who have been training at KGC in the national team’s camp under local coach Abdul Matin for the last three months.
Lieutenant Colonel (retd) Abdul Bari, Bangladesh Golf Federation’s coordinator and KGC general manager, hoped that the team can bring success for the nation.
“It is difficult to say who will win in golf. But we are hopeful that these players will make the nation proud. The players are currently training under a local coach with assistance from academy trainers. However, we are trying, through the Bangladesh Olympic Association, to bring an Australian coach for one month to help hone the skills of these players,” Abdul Bari told The Daily Star.
The training camp started on July 15, along with most of the other 23 disciplines in which Bangladesh will have representation. The BGF will conduct a trial by November 15, where one male golfer and one female golfer will be excluded from the final seven-member list. Bangladesh will participate in all four events of the Games -- the men’s individual, men’s team, women’s individual and women’s team events.
It is rare that amateur golfers get complete access to the country’s premier golfing venue due to the numerous events that take place here round the year. However, the likes of Farhad and Sonia are quite fortunate that they are getting to train from early morning till sunset for six days a week as there are currently no events at the club. They hit around 200 to 300 balls per day at the driving range before playing an 18-hole round while wrapping up the day’s work by training on their short game.
Farhad, the 26-year-old golfer from the Mainamati Golf & Country Club, is confident that with the opportunities they are getting from the federation and the club, they should be able to emulate the success of their predecessors. “Our target is to win gold at the South Asian Games. We want to do what our predecessors did. They are also Bangladeshi, so if they could do it, we can also do the same.”
Shafique, a 23-year-old golfer from Barishal, felt that the South Asian Games would be an opportunity for them to come to the limelight. “This tournament is very important for us since we don’t often get the focus, because of our amateur status. However, if we can do well at the SA Games, it will be a big statement of confidence from our side. We definitely want to bring success from Nepal,” Shafique said.
The lives of Farhad and Shafique have been anything but rosy. Like most of the leading golfers of the country, these national team golfers climbed the ladder from being ball-boys, then working as caddies before becoming golfers themselves. But the financial demands of the game have been a strain on themselves as well as their families.
However, Farhad, Shafique, Liton, Suman and Samrat fortune to have recently been ensured a regular stream of income and logistical support by Building Technology and Ideas Ltd (bti), one of the leading real estate developers of the country, which is also one of the biggest patrons of golf in Bangladesh. The two-year sponsorship came at a very opportune time as the golfers were gearing up for the SA Games.
With that financial support, these golfers can now at least go to bed after a hard day’s work at the golf club without having to think about how they will make ends meet the next day, concentrating instead on how they will get closer to their target.