An entrepreneur, investor, hotelier, sportsman, philanthropist & visionary, Anirudha Uttam Seolekar (Anil) recently served as President of the Indian Golf Union (IGU) – the apex body of golf in India for the 2016-17 term. Anil Seolekar is also a founder of the Indian Golf Industry Association (IGIA) and served as its President from 2013 – 2014. Anil was the Governor of the Games Village Youth Commonwealth Games in 2008 and has held various positions throughout his career. He is the Chairman & Managing Director of the Oxford Group. Golf Digest India caught up with him to learn about the IGU’s plans for the future of Indian golf.
What will the IGU’s focus be for 2016-17?
IGU has embarked upon an aggressive mission to promote junior grassroots programs in schools and universities. In West and South India, new initiatives are already underway by setting up golf facilities in schools and colleges. Our aim is inducting the next generation of golfers to the game.
A lot of players coming through the IGU system are making great starts in their pro career. What initiatives is the IGU taking to ensure a constant flow of quality players?
We have a high-performance coach and are following international standards for nurturing them to become competitive. Personal interaction, mind, body and game development are the focus areas. We are now on a ‘Mission Olympics’ initiative program and have made a plan to handpick 12-18-year-old talent and give them the required boost, motivation, and training to go the next level.
Please elaborate on initiatives the IGU undertakes to grow the game at the school and college levels?
My point in the first question outlines the same. We are creating more facilities, taking golf to schools and universities rather than expecting them to come. Once talent is identified, the IGU will dialogue with the clubs in the region to facilitate ease of access to the clubs and practice facilities.
Please elaborate on the work IGU does through the National Golf Academy of India (NGAI) coaching programs, Turfcare Seminars for greenskeepers, Referee Certification programs and other such initiatives that help grow the game.
IGU’s purpose and vision is broad-based and focuses primarily on developing amateur golf. IGU organizes programs for greenskeepers and superintendents which are run zone wise with renowned turfcare experts from abroad such as Micah Woods and John Neylan. Year on year we get more technical teams to train superintendents and these programs have become very popular and are benefitting greens & turf development. We have initiated a university program in Turf Management and will roll out this year with select universities. The National Golf Academy of India (NGAI) has over 400 coaches trained continuously across various categories through an ongoing program. We are now into discussions with the PGA of Europe to enhance the top level coaching and accreditation. The referee program is successful and we have a large no of top quality referees in the stream currently.
What plans does the IGU have to fund all the development activities envisaged?
CSR and corporates remain the means to help development. We are also getting the government to look at funding the various international tournaments, which they do to some extent. Golf now being an Olympic sport, we anticipate corporate funding coming in to develop champions over time.
CSR will play a big part in bringing financial support especially for grassroots and junior programs. How is IGU leveraging this?
IGU has already initiated this outreach zone wise. We have proposed our various tournaments and initiatives ranging from the grassroots level to the All India level and will leverage the same with corporates under their CSR programs as a build up to the Olympics.
How does IGU select players for the National Squad and what sort of training do these players receive?
We have an order of merit in place and follow set practices to select the players. There are rigorous training programs and pre-qualification selection matches. Our high performance coach mentors and trains the players after they have been selected and prepare them for all aspects of competitive golf.
You mentioned that IGU has setup an Excellence Committee with the objective of training and nurturing young talent for the Olympics. Please elaborate on the specific initiatives being taken.
It’s built into the above junior program as part of the ‘Excellence Program’ of the IGU. The excellence committee monitors the selected 12-18 year olds and they are managed and trained by the national high performance coach for mental, physical and skills perfection. Overtime this will result in even more successful and competitive golfers emerging from India.
What steps is the IGU taking with the government to further grow the game in India?
IGU has delivered proposals to the government to set up academies, public courses with R&A support envisaged. IGU is also working with the tourism ministry to support the various tournaments in which our amateur golfers travel abroad to represent India.
The IGU’s National Handicap Service (NHS) which launched over 2 years ago has seen tremendous signups with over 3000 active users. What plans does the IGU have to ensure that the entire golfing community in India is on one handicapping platform?
In every other major golfing country, all golfers register as individual members of the National Golf Union, paying an annual membership fee and one of the benefits they receive as members is a Centralized Handicap issued by the national body. Individual clubs do not issue handicaps in other countries. This annual membership of IGU will entitle any IGU member to a number of benefits and we are in the process of announcing this important step very soon. The entire package of benefits will be very valuable to individual golfers as well as to clubs so they will all subscribe and the program will be universally adopted. In this way, the service that IGU provides to its member clubs will be enhanced and we will be able to serve the entire golf community better. IGU will be a service provider and facilitator for the growth and enjoyment of the game for the benefit of all stakeholders. This is what the vision is for IGU.