If eking out a livelihood was tough in a city that’s a speck on the country’s golfing map, the lockdown has made survival tougher for the 200 caddies at the Lucknow Golf Club. Even when normalcy prevails and the golf course is busy, caddies find it difficult to make ends meet. Carrying a bag over nine holes yields just R120 and R240 for a complete round over 18 holes. Tips, if any, are a bonus. A month into the lockdown and their paltry savings all but gone, desperation is taking over. While some are into odd jobs like fixing punctures, others have taken to sewing clothes.
With the pandemic showing no signs of subsiding, lives and plans are on hold. “I was to get married in May but have had to put it off since I’m struggling to meet daily expenses,” said Rishi, a caddie.
Like most in his profession, Rishi hails from the Martinpurwa village, which also has a tradition of producing quality golfers like Vijay Kumar, the 2002 Indian Open champion, and Sanjay Kumar, a two-time winner on the Professional Golf Tour of India.
The golf club has stepped in with secretary, Rajnish Chopra, saying “the club was giving out food packets and R1000 per month and the efforts would continue for the next three months”.
The relief might be enough for smaller households but not for Suresh’s family of six. Being the eldest son, the caddie-turned-golfer has other responsibilities, and that could mean putting his dream on hold. “I was about to start my amateur career and play some key tournaments across the country, but the present situation has made it tough,” said Suresh. There is repentance that unlike many in the village, he did not focus enough on academics. “Perhaps, I too could have got a government job and a secure future,” said Suresh.
Under the circumstances, Vijay Kumar, who runs the pro shop at the club, warned that the sport could lose out on talent.
“Many of the young caddies have the potential to become good professionals, but in the current scenario many of them of them could quit the game and move on.”
Sanjay Kumar echoed the sentiment and urged more patrons to step in. “As caddies, these boys know only this sport. Without financial help, their future hangs in balance.”