Folks we are in great company here. Let’s raise a toast and reflect on two stalwarts who have greatly been responsible for moulding the game in this country. Let’s celebrate their individual successes and the fact that we, because of their integrity and excellence, have a bright future to look forward to. In their long innings at IGU each in his own way has taken it forward with new challenges and successes. Dilip Thomas and Ishwar Achanta, you have ‘swung hard and hit it’ and will continue to get better with age!
Dilip Thomas, affectionately known as DT to all his well wishers is Vice-Chairman of the AVT Group and as Council member of the Indian Golf Union (IGU) has given his undying support to Indian golf placing the
country on the international gol ng map, inspiring a whole new generation of Indian golfers to follow their dreams to succeed at the highest level.
Although DT shied away from speaking to us, we have made an effort to put together this account of the person who is synonymous with selfless commitment and untiring effort to promote amateur golf in India and abroad.
Describing his magnanimity and generosity of spirit, Gen. Parmar remembers that, “Once while attending a conference at St. Andrews, I played a tournament at the Old Course and shot a gross 4 over card. It
was in fact the second best card in a eld of about 90 golfers and when DT learnt about it during the evening farewell party, he was overjoyed and took me around and introduced me to just about everyone he
knew, announcing my score as he went along. Though it was a bit embarrassing, but quite frankly I enjoyed the hand- shakes and compliments I received. On his advice, I even framed the card and to this day it still hangs in my study!”
Another incident that stands out is an evening in Augusta. Gen. Parmar and I were making plans to walk the course at nine in the morning the next day when DT asked us to be present at the Rolex Marquee at
twelve noon. His invitation seemed to be wrapped in mystery. As planned we spent the morning on the course and not wanting to displease Dilip and being intrigued by his request we made our way to the venue
when to our surprise, a little later, in walked the legendary Jack Nicklaus and his charming wife Barbara. Gen. Parmar and I were dumbstruck. It was an unbelievable opportunity to have an exclusive meeting
and a fabulous lunch with the honoured guests. To say the least, I was emotionally overwhelmed with the experience. That day along with the winner I too proudly wore the Green Jacket back to India having
experienced the double joy of being at Augusta and meeting the master himself. In all the excitement, I did stop re ect upon and wonder about DT’s unassuming manner and generosity to so willingly share the limelight with us. I shall always be indebted to him for the kind gesture in making the impossible seem so easy.
It is well known that DT is immensely talented and easily becomes the life of a party when he starts strumming his guitar. His music immediately triggers happiness among a room full of people. Gen. Parmar
says that, “During social evenings he is invariably sought out and the evening ends with DT belting out popular numbers in his deep baritone; and yes DT can sing, and how!” DT’s personal style is a re ection of his ability to connect with people and is also blessed with ‘unbridled generosity.’ Few people are aware that on several occasions, quietly and without fanfare he has come to the aid of IGU sharing his wealth to passionately work for the union. He has given it his all, time and again.
DT has built his reputation one step at a time. Over time people have recognized the value he has provided. He is known to have a mind of his own, never afraid to stand up for what he believes in. As a role model, he has gained respect for walking the talk and inspiring others to unlock their potential.
Bringing in Rolex to IGU, a premium product to sponsor a premium sport goes entirely to his credit. Partnering the IGU, Rolex says is one way in which they hope to propel the vision of their company.
Another grand initiative was the partnership DT created with Johaan Rupert, Chairman of Golf RSA, wherein RCGC played host to the inaugural India vs South Africa Golf Test series. The event marked a new beginning for IGU and South Africa Golf Association. “We all know that Gandhi grew up in South Africa. So Johaan and I got talking about what we can do to strengthen the connection between our two countries.
We hope this connection continues for years,” says DT.
DT was also part of the International Golf Federation (IGF) Board of Directors which reintroduced golf in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Executive Director of IGF, Antony Scallon said that, “When the IGF Board of Directors was established we aimed to draw on the expertise throughout the golf world. Dilip brings with him a great
DT can best be described as the ultimate gentleman golfer and the reason why senior corporate leaders play the game and actually manage to be consistent year after year!
Ishwar Achanta rightly says – There is only God and the Rules of Golf between you and that little white ball; have faith in both and you will be a much better golfer, in all ways.
equalizer and rules help in assessing players fairly. What interests him the most is the opportunity to teach golfers the Rules in a different way using a language that is easily understandable. Players often ask him about rules – referring to shots and hits instead of strokes and he nds it most rewarding to make rules more easy-to-understand.
As a young player, he was fascinated by the Rules but could never nd the answers to a situation he wanted in a Rule book. He tried to understand the ‘why’ and ‘what’ and ‘where’ of rules and enjoyed the experience so much that it was not long before he had read the Rule book from cover to cover and soon became a full time Rules of cial on the Tour. He found it great fun to work with elite golfers and be involved on a day to day basis with the best in the field.
Finally after a six year stint, he has stepped off the R&A’s Rules of Golf committee but not before he had a say in the introduction of a new Local Rule globally effective from 1st January 2017, including
in India. This Local Rule eliminates all penalties for accidental movement of the ball only on the putting green. As some of you may be aware there is a Rules Review process underway and we can expect
dramatic changes hopefully by the end of 2018.
His hard work as one of the members of IGU’s Governing council has paved the way for establishing a Referees & TRAS training programme. It is rare to come across a more dedicated golfer than Ishwar Achanta whose love for abiding by the Rule has helped him charter the course and take forward the IGU Vision 2020.
In the following tete-a-tete with us he not only answers our questions but shares his vast knowledge of the game and his experience as a world-class Referee.
GP. Tell us about your early years ?
IA: I was born in 1966, in Madras, on a quiet street in Alwarpet, in an old world building called “Ranga Nursing Home”, only because it was bang next door to number 27, the home of my late aunt, the eminent gynaecologist, Indira and her husband the late, great Neurosurgeon, B.Ramamurthy.
I grew up in a home situated at 43, Harris Road. For those old Madrasi’s (strange how this word does not offend me when I say it but my blood boils when my brethren from the north say it), this name may evoke fond memories. For it was from this home, my father’s mother, the late Rukmini Lakshimipathy, fought, so sel essly for India’s independence. Every single day of my youth was enriched by stories of leaders like Sarojini Naidu, Kamala Devi Chattopadyaya, Rajaji, Sambamurthi, Durga Bai Deshmukh, Pattabhi Seetharamiah and Kamaraj gathered around our dining table, burning the midnight oil and plotting the death of British hegemony. That dining table is preserved by my brother, as my father did with such love and emotion as a very special event that he remembered was Pandit Nehru stopping by to greet my grandmother, being served breakfast at this table in the nest of English and Chinese crockery. Every time I sit at this table for a meal, I am humbled by the very thought that the actions of my grandmother and her ilk allows me my freedom and angers me that the mindless masses of this great Nation are throwing away everything that these stalwarts stood for.
Following an education at Padma Seshadri and P.S Senior and a brief stint at Loyola College, I went away to the Merchant marine but soon returned drawn by the magic of Madras. In 1987, I joined a shipping agency and went to work in an edi ce created by Cogan and Day, the Madras Port Trust. I have resisted the change of name to Chennai. To me, my home will always be at Madras.
I started Refereeing in 2000 and my 1st international event was the Australian Open in 2002. That I have of ciated at 12 Majors, 1st Indian at The Open and the U.S Open, invited to become a member of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St.Andrews, Chief Referee of the APGC and now Board Member, Technical Delegate for Golf at the 2014 Busan Asian Games, creating and being responsible for the Rules education
system in India, teaching rules to over 400 Indians and much more, boils down to the simple fact that the Almighty chose to bestow upon me such incredible favours, to which I am undeniably and completely
GP. How did you get associated with Golf & IGU?
IA. In 1974, an uncle of mine was posted to Leyland in Sri Lanka. He returned with a golf set for my late dad, Achanta Rama Rao, who cut down the 2-iron and gave it to me. With no formal coaching available those days, I learnt the game all on my own and in 1975, I got my rst handicap. I am privileged by birth and opportunity to have played this game for 43 long years, having been a low handicapper, for years. As the son of a father with modest means and who gave to me this glorious game, this journey has been exhilarating and rewarding both in terms of the knowledge gained and the beautiful friendships made. I hoped to have made my father proud!
Having been denied an opportunity to serve the game through the IGU, I fought and won an election, in 2008, for the post of Hon. Treasurer at Madras Gymkhana Club, a founder member of the IGU and was nominated to the Council of the IGU. Successive Presidents starting with TT Jaggu, Ashit Luthra, Jaydeep Chitlangia, Gen.(Retd)Bikram Singh and Raian Irani continued to bestow their faith in me as Chairman of the Technical, Rules and Amateur Status committee and gave me the opportunity to raise the bar and set exacting standards in the way this game is governed in our Country. Our current President, Satish Aparajit, has given me the additional responsibility of being the Hon.Treasurer and I have my work cut out, before me.
GP. What according to you is the biggest challenge faced by the golf industry today?
IA. Today, there is a dearth of vision and planning for Golf. So long as there are divisive forces, both within our organisation and outside, we will continue to ounder. With Royal Calcutta being the oldest Golf Course outside of the U.K (1829), the game since then, has never seen an exponential growth as did China, Malaysia, Japan and Australia. We are to blame for this! In my humble opinion, we need unity,
rst amongst ourselves and then with the other major stakeholders of the game in India. Until that happens we will all be pulling in different directions and continue to be irrelevant and ineffective.
GP. What is your view on the inclusion of Golf in Olympics?
IA. Ecstatic that my sport made it to the Olympics. However, after, the initial excitement and with Justin Rose being a worthy winner, I am not altogether sure if that impact has trickled down well enough
in India. There have been committees and committees and the MYAS has also given a superb impetus with their Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOP). However, some needless controversy concerning our Olympian Golfers seems to have side tracked us and I believe that if we reset some of our goal posts, it will be matter of time before we have a podium nisher in Golf, from India.
GP. How regularly do you play Golf?
IA. More often than I should. I must confess that I have chalked up serious numbers in the rounds that I have played over the last 18 months, making up for lost time after a surgery!
GP. Which is your favourite Golf course and why?
IA. Having played and refereed all over the world, I always come back to the Kodaikanal Golf Club, my favourite place on earth. Nestled in the Palani Hills of the Western Ghats is our little jewel and home
to the Kurinji Flower which blooms once every 12 Years. Discovered in 1845 by American Missionaries , Kodai has been the home, since 1895, to a picturesque 6109 yard, 18 hole all Greens, Par 71 Golf Course, spread over 114 acres. For the traditionalist, Kodai Golf Club is unique, the incoming Captain, always nominated by the outgoing one, “drives” (late at night) into of ce and the outgoing one nds his
portrait adorning the rogues gallery! I had the privilege of being its Captain for the year 2008-09. Undulating terrain makes for some very interesting shots, the snap hook and the outright shank being the most common of them. Visits to the woods are very common, not just to answer natures’ call. Kodaikanal is a home away from home. The ethereal and verdant beauty is Nature’s way of reaching into our souls. As one stands, in deafening silence, on the 15th Tee and prepares to launch a ball, one feels closer to God, than ever before and I thank Him for bestowing upon our transient lives, such beauty.
GP. What is your other calling besides Golf?
IA. I own a modest Shipping and Ports business. We are stevedores and ship brokers and we provide Advisory, Project Management (PMC) and Operations and Maintenance (O&M) services for Ports and Terminals. I have been a Trustee on the Boards of Vishakapatnam and Chennai Ports for 10 years and am currently the President of the Chennai Port Stevedores Association and the Vice President of the Federation of Stevedores. I serve as a Committee Member of the Madras Chamber of Commerce and the Hindustan Chamber of Commerce.
On Demonetisation: Absolutely no inconvenience faced, rooted out the devil in the system.
On Trumps election as the President: Would have never voted him as my leader but I guess the Americans know what is best for them!
On GST: Long overdue, small glitches that will soon be ironed out, here to stay as it should!
Have you been associated with R&A in the technical committee? What are the functions of the same?: I served as the representative of the APGC on the R&A’s Rules of Golf Committee from December 2010 till
December 2016. Our job was to examine the Rules of golf, as they were, determine what was wrong with them and improve on them, for Joe golfer to be able to understand.
What is R&A doing to simplify the rules to make the game attractive? Come 1st January, 2019 a new set of Rules takes over. I had the privilege of being involved in this. The way it’s written, these rules are not aimed at your or I. Someone who has never played the game can read and understand them and be drawn to the game. This is what makes the new Rules so attractive!
What is your take on the first Olympics and the next one in Japan?: Excited with the Rio Olympics and personally knowing the Japanese gents who are responsible for the 2020 edition, it will be a cracker!
How do rules help Golfers? There is only God and the Rules of Golf between you and that little white ball! Have faith in one or both and you will be a much better Golfer, in all ways!!