Golf: Denied access to elite golf club, India's Rashid Khan takes his fight to the course

Rashid Khan of India in action during the third round of the SMBC Singapore Open at Sentosa's Serapong Course on Jan 18, 2020.
Rashid Khan of India in action during the third round of the SMBC Singapore Open at Sentosa's Serapong Course on Jan 18, 2020.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Golf is often regarded as an elitist and rich man's sport, but India's Rashid Khan is doing his utmost to fight the stereotype on the course.

The 28-year-old was detained by Delhi police - who he had called in - for several hours last May after he was refused permission to enter the Delhi Golf Club, despite claiming that a Supreme Court ruling had granted him admission as long as he pays the green fees.

Discouraged by what he perceived to be discrimination against those like himself - Khan is from a humble background and had to train with other less well-to-do Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) colleagues at a wasteland on the outskirts of the capital last year - he contemplated quitting the sport.

But his father's advice kept him going. Khan said: "He told me to just keep doing what I am doing, because right now I am fighting for myself and the future of other kids."

He has definitely come a long way from the boy who played truant from school for six months to play golf, and the teenager who went to Kolkata for two weeks to play in a junior tournament with just 5,000 rupees (S$95) given to him by his factory worker father.

At 18, he was selected for the Indian team that won silver at the 2010 Asian Games, before turning pro that year. It was not all smooth-sailing, however, as he would "play one good tournament, and then miss quite a few cuts" from 2015 to 2017.

But aided by changes to his drivers and irons in 2018, he began hitting straighter and started winning on the PGTI again.

Out on Sentosa Golf Club's Serapong Course on Saturday (Jan 18), he posted six birdies tofour bogeys to card a two-under 69 and will go into Sunday's final round of the SMBC Singapore Open in seventh place with a eight-under total of 205, nine shots behind leader Matt Kuchar.

A strong finish would help to strengthen his bid for the Tokyo Olympics in July - he is currently 55th in the Olympic golf rankings - which he hopes will help change mindsets in his country.

 

Khan, who now trains at the Noida Golf Course in Uttar Pradesh, said: "Making it to the Olympics will be a dream come true after all I have been through. It will also show many people, especially kids, all over India that an Olympic dream is achievable regardless of background."