A putt for old times; and new

A putt for old times; and new And then there was the “fi re”! A milestone if ever there was one in its frightening significance in the annals of the now 187 year old club. It happened on April 23, 1998, a hundred and sixty-nine years after the club was founded in 1829. It was the first golfing club outside of the British Isles. It changed homes twice before settling down at 18, Golf Club Road, Tollygunge, Kolkata: 700 033 but much the official records of the glorious history of the initial years was virtually engulfed by the flames that devoured the thatched shamiana.

The thatched shamiana is now replaced by a modern one where golfers and members hang out over an interesting bill of fare that the kitchen provides but the amazing pages of history and records (of food and drinks served included) have been reduced to ashes as well.

What survives are some record books in the office, which still stands in the original location, with some modifications. The sahibs were meticulous with their records and documentation with the minute books written on by hand, in striking calligraphy. The 1890 record books (see pix) still refer to the club as the Calcutta Golf Club — the title “Royal” was conferred much later, when the Great Britain’s royal couple visited Calcutta in 1912. It was only on November 5, 1912 that R. Duncan, the Captain of the Club, read out a letter to his Committee from the Hon’ble C. J. Stevenson-Moore, C.V.O, I.C.S., Chief Secretary to the Government of Bengal, that he could inform the Club that “His Imperial Majesty the King Emperor had been graciously pleased to grant the title of ‘Royal’ to the Calcutta Golf Club” in commemoration of their “Majesties visit to Calcutta in the early part of the year”. Though the RCGC website (http://www.rcgc. in/golf_course/history.php) says that “No
records are available until 1874”, the oldest minute book that this writer could locate belonged to 1890. “The opening of the Golf Season is a sure sign that cold weather may be considered to have fairly set in. Saturday afternoon brought together a large gathering of members who sat down to a sumptuous tiffin provided by the Great Eastern Hotel after which Messrs Bourne & Shephard immortalized those present”.
One can almost feel the day today, some 130 years later, as golfers mill around the club after just having participated in the Telegraph Cup Golf 2016 held on November 10 and 11, announcing the onset of what promises to be another wonderful sporting season this winter (see box).

Every celebrated Calcutta institution participated in the romance of golf with those running the show keen to preserve the St Andrews lineage. The All-India Amateur Golf Championship was the signature event
even in those days; the 2nd oldest running golf tournament in the world after the British Open and was actually an RCGC event, started in 1892, as a four-round stroke play championship. This was well before the club had relocated at Tollygunge in 1920 after shifting from its fi rst home near the airport and the second at the Maidan.

It was on the paddy farmlands of the area that golf in India found a permanent home. Amidst the undulating fi elds that still render the course tricky and swamps that continue to provide RCGC with its natural water hazards. “The par fours were long and challenging to score on where approach shots require long and medium irons to be hit which test the skills of all the golfers”, says the club. So what caused the fire?

“Mangoes”, says the 62-year old Bipro Mukherjee, the oldest serving employee at RCGC and quite a fount of knowledge about the history apart from being a backroom boy par excellence. “The local boys would come to steal mangoes as boys are wont to and there was a fracas with the police, who had a camp within the club premises, which got out of hand. Probably by accident, a gun went off and that was enough to rile the local boys who decided to have it out with the authorities. “Panchil topkay cholay eshaychilo ora”, says Bipro Babu, almost reliving the fear of the terrible day. “They came back with reinforcements and jumped over the wall, forced their way into the club, wanting to teach the general manager a lesson”. The thatched shamiana was a sitting duck. It was a magnifi cent structure with solid sal pillars and sal frames. They used “gol paata” those days , recalls Bipro Mukherjee. They provided a cooling effect even in summer and, of course, there was straw. Someone must have lit a match and within minutes there was a raging fire.

Bipro Mukherjee was in the offi ce room doing his work when he heard the noise. There wasthefire and a mob and the folks in the offi ce did what they thought was the wisest: run for their lives. The police
and the fi re brigade came later and brought things under control but no one paid attention to the records. “We did try and salvage what we could and records were not on top of our minds then. Today, I understand the value of the history and keep whatever I can lay my


Move over IPL, the RPGL is here and for the golfi ng fraternity the latter trumps the former easily. “We are pleased to inform you that after the highly successful edition of the first edition of the ‘Royal Premier Golf League’, the RCGC is hosting the 2nd edition” says Abhay Pasari, Convener, Royal Premier Golf League.

The event that tees off in the fi rst week of January and will conclude in March 2017 will be called the Greentech City Indiabulls Royal Premier Golf League, powered by Dalmia Bharat Cement. The format is similar to the ÏPL’s. In the fi rst edition, it had 14 team owners; each team with 18 players.

The second edition will feature 20 teams with 21 players each. This tournament is open to all members and dependants of the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (amateurs only). The teams will be divided into two groups and play matches on a round robin format. Each team will play nine league matches and each match will comprise six matches to be played on a ‘Four ball better ball format’.

“This will culminate into the quarter fi nals with the top four teams from each group fighting it out for the championship. The 5th to 8th placed teams in each group will also qualify for the Challenger Trophy”, Abhay Pasari says.

The 108th Telegraph Cup Golf 2016 was held at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club on November 10 and 11, 2016. Established in 1906 this sporting event represents a great congregation of tea planters and golfers from the oil companies in North East India, from the Steel City of Jamshedpur as well as from Patna and Bhubaneswar.

To ensure larger corporate participation, the organizing committee had revised the format of the game from four-member teams to two member teams this time around. Also, making a break with tradition, this edition was played not in the monsoons, as has been the practice, but in perfect weather, which was also great for the golf course.

The Telegraph Cup Golf 2016 was presented by Medica Hospitals, supported by Black Dog, Kingfi sher Beer, Coke, 91.9 Friends FM. Prizes were sponsored by the Oberoi Grand, Taj Bengal, ITC Sonar, Hotel Hindustan
International, Alila Diwa Goa, Micromax, Hamlyn Shoes and restaurants Chili’s and 6 Ballygunge Place.

The event concluded with a gala Prize Presentation at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club, where McLeod & Company, represented by Ishan Bajoria and Akshay Bajoria, were victorious followed by J Thomas & Company Pvt. Ltd. The tournament was managed by Brandon de Souza Management Services.

hands on — photographs in particular — carefully. Those were the days when the three babus were all powerful: Kali Babu was the burra babu, Panchu Babu (P. G. Bhattacharya) the accountant, Kar Babu (A. K. Kar) who looked after the tournaments. Then came Bipro Babu with his zero knowledge of golf but with a reputation of being an honest, hard working fellow. More importantly, he was related to Panchu Babu.
The club needed a caddy clerk to manage the tank boys, whose job it was to collect balls that had fallen in the water. The markers would retrieve balls lost on land. “The members would lodge complaints about loss of balls with details and it was the caddy clerk’s job to ensure that the boys did retrieve the balls before they were paid. The practice was stopped in 2003, after the strike, when the club was closed down for a while”, recalls Bipro Babu.

Hiring was a simple procedure. Bipro Mukherjee was asked to present himself before Stan Cecil Boucher, Managing Member. Stan Boucher is amongst the most colourful members of RCGC ever. He came to India with the British Army in 1941 and joined the club in 1954. He asked Bipro Babu a few questions — just a matter of formality — before asking the captain, Bharat Bajoria, if it was OK to hire him. Bajoria had no objections and they had just introduced quite an asset to the club. Over the 22 years that Bipro Babu has been around he picked up golfi ng norms, learnt to manage tournament operations simply

by going off to stand beside A. K. Kar during his break, carefully observing how the tournaments were being scored. Kar Babu was happy to ask the young enthusiast to lend a hand now and again and before long he was quite good at it. Making a list of participants, vetting score cards, sitting with the golf convenor with all the sheets and finally announcing the winner!

When Kar Babu retired, it was only natural that Bipro Mukherjee be asked to step into his shoes. There was the fi ery Arthur Pereira, who was in charge of the course and Stan Boucher who looked after administration who were supposed to interview him for the new responsibilities. They checked with him if he could manage. Kar Babu had vouched for him and Bipro Mukherjee said that he would have no problems; and that was that.

Things have changed since. The participants list is courtesy online submissions now, the number of members has increased, the club facilities have increased, the sporting activities have increased, there are super banqueting facilities and there is an international standard gym, says Bipro Babu.

“What is most heartening is that there are so many kids coming to play golf; their parents taking their game seriously; they spend so much time with their kids. There are also constant efforts to improve services, improve quality of the golf course and now the RCGC is also promoting the Royal Premier Golf League and the Royal Bowling League”.

What a challenge the Royal Premier Golf League will present over the three months that it is played. It will feature 20 teams with 21 players in each, which means 400 and more golfers will vie for honours. But coming up with the top honours will be the “Royal”, says Bipro Mukherjee.

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